Lord Kamall, the Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences opens the HDA Annual Conference 2021

Dear HDA members,

We were pleased to have Lord Kamall, the Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences open the HDA Annual Conference 2021 by video.

On behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care, Lord Kamall recognised the HDA and the HDA’s members’ “incredible efforts in ensuring that medicines reach patients”, “despite the challenges over the past two years”.

HDA members, he emphasised, were crucial in the effort to fight coronavirus: “From the very start in the first lockdown when we saw huge increases in demand, this created extreme pressures on wholesalers, required lots of flexibility to keep up with demand and to thank you for the great efforts that we saw in sourcing PPE for pharmacies. You managed all this while navigating complex policies and adopting covid-securing working practices”.

He said that there was a need to work “closely and in collaboration together”. He continued: “We appreciate the need for the Department, the MHRA, and others in the health family to engage as early as possible. The close liaison that has developed through Martin, the HDA’s Executive Director and the HDA, working week to week with officials, demonstrates the strong cooperation which has been built up.”

He thanked members for their support in ensuring a consistent medicines supply following Brexit, and reiterated the Government’s commitment to futureproofing the supply chain. He was furthermore pleased to hear that the HDA had chosen carbon net zero as the focus of the Conference’s afternoon programme.

For the full video, please contact the HDA Secretariat.

HDA member companies are currently experiencing challenges in accessing fuel like many other critical sectors across the UK.

As you would expect, individual medicines wholesale distribution companies have ongoing business continuity plans to provide resilience to ensure medicine deliveries are maintained to community pharmacies, hospitals and doctors across the country.  The sector as a whole has withstood the ravages and demands of Covid-19 and is well-placed to be flexible and is very used to working collaboratively with other supply chain partners.

These arrangements are currently being severely tested, as fuel supplies are not as available as we would like from normal sources.  HDA knows that some normal delivery schedules for medicines could be disrupted for most of this week, but every effort will be made to fulfil orders. HDA members are grateful for the patience and understanding being displayed by their customers.

HDA believes successful maintenance of patient supply will be dependent on two critical issues:

  • priority access for distributors’ transport fleets to fuel, principally at petrol stations – HDA is in urgent talks with the UK Government on this specific issue
  • continued regular deliveries into our warehouses of medicines, that themselves are being impacted by fuel shortages

 

Dear HDA members,

Please see Lord Bethell’s written response to the HDA’s letter expressing concern over increasing delays in the COVID-19 testing regime. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Innovation took this opportunity to thank the pharmaceutical distribution sector for its crucial role in ensuring that medicines reach patients, and the HDA for its ongoing work around COVID-19 and in raising important issues with the Department of Health and Social Care.

28 October 2020

Dear Martin,

I was sorry to read about the difficulty members companies of HDA have raised about their getting a test for Covid-19 (Coronavirus). I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate what I set out in my letter to you on 17 June, we appreciate the crucial role of pharmaceutical distribution in ensuring that medicines reach patients. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the HDA for their ongoing work around Covid-19 and in raising important issues with the Department.

We have provided access to testing for millions of essential workers, where they are selfisolating because either they, or a member of their household is symptomatic, and are committed to ensuring all symptomatic essential workers get access to a test.

Essential workers and members of their households, including those working in the medicines supply chain, can access priority testing at https://www.gov.uk/applycoronavirus-test-essential-workers, individuals using the portal can enter their details and will then receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment at one of more than 70 drive through testing sites across the country, or receive a home testing kit.  Essential workers can order five test kits for themselves and other symptomatic members of their households. However, for households of more than five, the Contact Centre (119) can raise an order on their behalf. Essential workers remain those which were listed under guidance published earlier in the year, this includes those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines, and medical and personal protective equipment. This guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested.  

We continue to expand testing capacity doubling the daily COVID-19 testing capacity to 500,000 by the end of October.  We are also increasing the number of testing sites to 500 by the end of October to help ensure everyone who needs a test can access one.  We are also aware of an issue with the booking portal that resulted in some users being directed to

tests sites a long distance from them. This has now been resolved, and we have introduced a travel restriction to receive a test at 75 miles to ensure that this does not happen again.

We are also taking actions to make it clear that only symptomatic people should be accessing tests in order to reduce inappropriate demand, including focused communications across the media and the 119 Call centre, and updating guidance at test sites.

Thank you again for raising this important issue, the continued safe supply of medicines to patients remains a priority and we are grateful to all the efforts being made by your members.

I hope you have found this response helpful.

Yours,

Lord Bethell

Dear HDA Members,

The HDA’s Executive Director, Martin Sawer, wrote to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Innovation Lord Bethell, relaying concerns from HDA member companies over the cumulative impact of the increasing delays in the COVID-19 testing regime. Mr. Sawer highlighted that the HDA and its members were concerned that if not addressed, this could begin to affect their operational performance and ultimately the certainty that medicines can get to patients as required.

17 September 2020

Dear Minister,

On behalf of the medicines distribution sector, I am writing to express growing concerns from our member companies about the cumulative impact of the increasing delays in the COVID-19 testing regime.  HDA and its members are concerned that if not addressed, this could begin to affect their operational performance and ultimately the certainty that medicines can get to patients, as required.

As you will be aware, our member companies operate over 50 pharmaceutical distribution warehouses across the four countries of the United Kingdom, and as you have kindly acknowledged, their efficiency and business resilience has held up incredibly well in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.  HDA and its members really did appreciate the UK Government’s decision to classify employees in our sector as Key Workers.  This allowed our members’ businesses to operate with much improved levels of staffing and certainty than might otherwise have been the case.  The priority given to Key Workers, both regarding access to schools and the testing regime, was really helpful in allowing management to plan staff rosters and guarantee medicines supplies continued.  To have this certainty now begin to be thrown into doubt, seemingly due to the lack of a testing prioritisation process, is difficult to understand.  We had assumed that all the planning for coping with a potential second wave of COVID would include the type of challenges that we are now experiencing.

HDA is now collecting weekly member company data to quantify the impact on the sector.  So far, the Association has received reports of testing delays for employees at medicines warehouses in Stoke, Chessington, Cardiff, Southampton, Hinckley, Warrington, Gateshead, Norwich and Belfast.  To add insult to injury, some staff in Belfast have been offered testing slots in Scotland for example, and others tests several hours away from their localities.  HDA companies report that these delays in getting colleagues back to work – some waiting at home just for a test for nearly a week – is beginning to have an effect on business operations.

We believe that it must be in the interests of our members’ businesses, patients and the NHS, if we can jointly acknowledge and solve these issues before the situation gets out of hand.  HDA would support testing prioritisation, alongside the clear and public communication of guidance, and would be keen to work with you and your Department to achieve this. I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Yours sincerely,
Martin Sawer

Dear HDA members,

Please see below letter from Lord Bethell, Minister of Innovation at DHSC, thanking all staff in the healthcare distribution sector for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

17 June 2020

Dear Martin,

Thank you to all staff in the healthcare distribution sector

I personally want to thank all staff in the healthcare distribution sector for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the father of four young children, I lean on the pharmaceutical wholesale industry to provide solutions for the sniffles, cuts and scrapes of a busy home life, and I am grateful that the supplies of key family medicines and supplies has never wavered.

These are unprecedented times and I have been very impressed by the response from healthcare distributors and their staff during this very busy and challenging period for all of us. It was because of your efforts that hospitals have been able to continue to treat patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms and community pharmacies have been able to continue to supply patients with their medication in primary care.

Healthcare distribution staff have a vital role in our joint response to the COVID-19 pandemic and I can assure you that all Health Ministers are incredibly grateful for the work that you are doing.

Finally, I also want to thank the Healthcare Distribution Association for representing the sector and working with the Government and the NHS on the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you again for all your work and support.

From the Lord Bethell

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Innovation (Lords)

COVID-19 Update – 29 April 2020

 

HDA Statement regarding the availability of Public Health England-supplied PPE for community pharmacy

The Healthcare Distribution Association would like the community pharmacy sector to be aware that the stocks of Public Health England (PHE) PPE masks recently supplied by the Association’s member wholesalers to pharmacies, for staff use only, have now almost completely run out.  HDA member companies are awaiting a new sale event to be announced by Public Health England.

In the meantime, the Department of Health & Social Care has told HDA:

“We have extended our PPE supply route to Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) to help distribute stock to organisations outside of the NHS supply chain who have the highest need clinically and other services that would have a high priority need for PPE including Pharmacists.

Over 7 million more items of PPE have been delivered over the last week to the LRFs identified as being in the highest need of resupply. We will continue to make drops of PPE for distribution by the LRFs to meet some priority need until the new e-commerce solution is operational.

We will continue to make releases to wholesalers when stocks permit.

If providers are unable to access PPE through these routes and have an urgent need, they should contact the National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR) helpline to request emergency support. The 24/7 freephone number is 0800 915 9964.”

This statement about PHE-supplied PPE masks excludes the fact that individual HDA wholesalers may be able to obtain some supplies of appropriately certified PPE masks from their own sources.

Dear HDA Members,

On behalf of the Healthcare Distribution Association, we would like to thank all our members for your continuing dedicated efforts and hard work through these challenging and unprecedented times.  Now more than ever, your work is crucial to the health of millions of UK citizens up and down  the country, with hospitals, community pharmacies and dispensing doctors relying on wholesalers to provide vital medicines.  This critical role has been recognised across Government, and by others in the medicines supply chain.   You all have been classified as Key Workers in our joint fight against Covid-19; for this we say ‘Thank You’.

The safety of wholesaling and distribution colleagues is one of our top priorities.  With this aim, the HDA is working closely with the UK Government and our members, to ensure that distribution staff’s day-to-day work is as safe and secure as possible.  As always, our mission remains to maintain the efficiency of our supply chain and get medicines to those who need it the most at the right time.

The HDA is very proud of the work you are doing to support the country’s healthcare system at such a critical time.  We hope our members, and all respective families are keeping well.

Once again, on behalf of all at the Healthcare Distribution Association, we thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Sawer, Executive Director and Jeremy Main, Chair

The Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) has been working closely with its members and supply chain partners during the COVID-19 pandemic to help ensure patients continue to receive the right medicine, in the right place, at the right time.

The demand for medicines has increased dramatically, both from primary and secondary care, leading to a substantial uplift in the volumes of medicines flowing through the supply chain. Such increased volumes would place strains on healthcare distributors in more normal circumstances but has done so to an even greater extent in recent weeks, as some wholesaling staff have been self-isolating.

As an Association, we have been working with partners such as the Department for Health and Social Care; NHS England; NHS Improvement; the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency; and pharmacy and pharmaceutical manufacturing trade bodies to identify and mitigate possible impediments to the safe and secure distribution of increased volumes of medicines.

Examples of such measures include:

  • Exceptional Good Distribution Practice (GDP) flexibilities from the MHRA that minimise business burden during the pandemic.
  • The recognition by Government of wholesaling staff as key workers; providing greater access to schooling and eventually COVID-19 antigen and antibody testing.
  • Formal government recognition of the crucial role being played by healthcare distributors in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • An NHS England Standard Operating Procedure for out of hours and weekend access to emergency orders from wholesalers for NHS Trusts.

The priority of the HDA remains the safe and secure distribution of medicines to primary and secondary care, which in itself is predicated on the safety of wholesaling staff. The Association will continue to work with all its supply chain partners during and after the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve these twin aims.

Dear HDA members,

Please see below letter from Steve Oldfield, Chief Commerical Officer at DHSC, thanking pharmaceutical wholesalers for the crucial role they play in the supply chain, which is more important now than ever.

25th March 2020

Pharmaceutical wholesalers critical to the COVID-19 response

Pharmaceutical wholesalers play a crucial role in our supply chain. We rely on your staff to enable hospitals and community pharmacies to continue to treat patients and supply them with the medicines and other supplies they need. This is more important than ever under the current circumstances.

You will have heard the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care yesterday saying that “key workers, for example in the NHS, social care, pharmacists, medicine supply chain, should go to work unless they are self-isolating due to symptoms.”. There should be no doubt that anyone working for a pharmaceutical wholesaler is a key worker. We need key workers including those working in your company to come into work to do the important job they do to support the NHS and patients across the country.

I would be grateful if you could share this message with your staff.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Oldfield, Chief Commercial Officer

Dear HDA members,

Please see below letter from Steve Oldfield, Chief Commerical Officer at DHSC, thanking pharmaceutical wholesalers for the crucial role they play in the supply chain, which is more important now than ever.

25th March 2020

Pharmaceutical wholesalers critical to the COVID-19 response

Pharmaceutical wholesalers play a crucial role in our supply chain. We rely on your staff to enable hospitals and community pharmacies to continue to treat patients and supply them with the medicines and other supplies they need. This is more important than ever under the current circumstances.

You will have heard the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care yesterday saying that “key workers, for example in the NHS, social care, pharmacists, medicine supply chain, should go to work unless they are self-isolating due to symptoms.”. There should be no doubt that anyone working for a pharmaceutical wholesaler is a key worker. We need key workers including those working in your company to come into work to do the important job they do to support the NHS and patients across the country.

I would be grateful if you could share this message with your staff.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Oldfield, Chief Commercial Officer

From Factory to Pharmacy

As part of our mission to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the vital importance of the healthcare distribution sector, we developed an infographic explaining the availability of medicines. It identifies the factors that can impact drug supply, as well as the measures that HDA members undertake day in, day out to help mitigate the risks of patients not receiving their medicines.

See the Infographic

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