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Roche Diagnostics have told Sky News that complications at its Sussex distribution warehouse could limit the NHS’ ability to carry out blood tests and cancer screenings.

The pharmaceutical company have apologised for any delay caused by the supply chain issues, and have stressed that their team are „working night and day to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”

The PA Media Agency also report that Roche have sent a letter to customers that includes the following text:

“In September we moved from our old warehouse to a new automated warehouse capable of much higher volumes. However, during the transition we encountered some unforeseen issues and a very significant drop in our processing capacity. Since then we have worked around the clock to prioritise and manage orders as well as increase this capacity”.

Roche Diagnostics have admitted that the supply chain problems will impact Covid-19 testing too. Besides supplying the chemicals and parts used in Covid-19 tests, Roche also provide materials for other purposes including blood and urine tests, as well as diabetic care.

It is reported that Roche will be unable to supply chemical reagents, swabs and screening kits to affected NHS trusts and labs. As a consequence of the supply shortage, tests will have to be rationed until the problem subsides. According to the BBC, it could take up to two weeks for the issues to be resolved.

Given the vital importance of the NHS in the UK’s battle against Covid-19, the operation of its supply chain has understandably been under the spotlight this year. According to Health Care Global, the NHS Supply Chain manages more than 4.5 million orders per year from 94,000 order points and 15,000 locations.

Since news of PPE shortages hit the headlines at the start of the pandemic, the NHS have opened a new distribution centre in Suffolk operated by its logistics provider, Unipart Logistics. Between February 25th and July 23rd, the NHS’ supply chain also delivered at least 654 million items using its predictive ‘push’ model.

On top of that, last month the NHS Supply Chain launched a brand new framework for the provision of a compliant purchasing route for a wide range of robotic surgical equipment.

Despite these positives, disruptions caused by partners such as Roche mean that the NHS’ Supply Chain will remain under constant scrutiny for some time.

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