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Our part in the NHS 100,000 tests per day target

For Medline Scientific the year started pretty much the same as any other year. Management planning was underway with discussions on new market opportunities, the impact of Brexit and global warming plus the creative work of supplying sterile flocked swabs and equipment to the NHS & many other laboratories. January settled down and Christmas became a distant memory.

As February rain continued to batter the country key events started to provide signs that this year would not be quite as we envisaged. At this point we, as most business leaders, had no idea of the impact about to hit the UK and, with it, our business plans and operations.  Information began to flow via the media and W.H.O. that a new virus had been identified in China and was at an epidemic stage. More worrying was the warning that the virus may become a pandemic.

By mid month calls and emails began arriving from the NHS Supply Chain (Medline Scientific is an official supplier).  Nothing unusual about that but the urgency and product interest was different. The challenge: To supply very large quantities of sterile flocked swabs – and fast!

Sterile flocked swabs provide optimum specimen collection because of their ability to collect more specimens at the collection site and to more rapidly release the entire sample specimen.  

Oropharyngeal specimen collection using sterile flocked swabs
Nasopharyngeal specimen collection using sterile flocked swabs

In early March the pandemic was made official. High streets, trading estates, pubs and restaurants took advice and closed with only essential services allowed to stay operational. Clearly as an essential, critical supplier to the NHS, Medline Scientific needed to stay operation. A deep clean along with office restructuring placed some staff working from home whilst warehouse training and signage meant operations could continue safely.

By the 23rd March a full lockdown along with a 100,000 tests a day target announced by the Health Secretary raised the urgency level even higher. The pressure was on to work with suppliers and logistics to get the product manufactured and delivered for the roll out.  The country seemed fixated on whether the target of 100,000 a day would be met. Behind the scenes we became increasingly aware that we stood between the target success or failure. 

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The Government target of 100,000 test per day was achieved and the NHS has continued to deliver similar levels each day during May. Today the lifting of the lockdown and a Track, Trace & Test service is delivering a key pillar in the fight against Covid 19. The ongoing supply to the NHS of flocked swabs has climbed towards the top of the Medline Scientific’s management agenda and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future..

The moral of this story is: Planning is essential but without inherent rapid response and flexibility targets may never be achieved.