Logical logistics for Healthcare

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As far as logistics go, one can argue that the healthcare industry is privy to some of the most stringent standards because ultimately you are dealing with patients, sensitive clinical shipments and urgent mail deliveries. Specialist healthcare services provider SRCL's director Brendan Fatchett spoke with MLIT to explain how the company has helped meet complex needs of Health Trusts.

It is well-known that the health service has been asked to save £20bn by 2015 to meet future challenges such as an ageing population and the rising costs of drugs and treatments. Last month, BBC Health reported on how the NHS could be facing its most challenging period since it was created in 1948. Despite various arguments, about whether the changes are for the best or worse, two things are for certain: Trusts need to save money and, more importantly, the patient must come first.

Complex needs

A reliable patient transport service (PTS) can make a significant difference to patient care and help Trusts meet performance KPIs. When the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (MCHT) needed a patient transport service (PTS) to meet the growing demand of beds, specialist healthcare supplier SRCL worked with them to understand their operations and what was needed. Management of beds is often critical for a Trust as it handles the patient-to-bed ratio whilst maintaining essential standards of care.

Brendan of SRCL further explains: "Demand for beds at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (MCHT) is a round-the-clock operation and managing those beds and the discharge of patients is vital to keep the system flowing smoothly."

"We deliver PTS every day of the year. As in any busy hospital, early evenings are a critical time when it comes to pressure on beds, as GP referrals arrive and Accident and Emergency assessments mount. So, managing discharges and providing essential PTS is a priority", added Brendan.

MCHT's clinical site managers manage the "flow" of patients through the hospital with patient discharges being key delivery of standards in the Emergency Department. To facilitate discharges and to keep the patient flow moving they depend on the specialist patient transport service (PTS) provided by SRCL. Mark Wilde, Deputy Director of Performance and Quality at MCHT said, "SRCL has brought forward their daily start time to give greatest capacity when we are at our busiest. The Trust also calls on SRCL for ad-hoc transfers and discharges outside the geographic area or when demand exceeds scheduled capacity."

Green fleet and vehicle intelligence

SRCL believes logistical expertise and patient care is just the beginning. They say that customers also want the vehicle (pardon the pun) via which the service is delivered to be green and efficient in order to help them meet their carbon emission targets.

According to the NHS Sustainable Development Unit (SDU), the NHS' carbon emissions are levelling at 20 million tonnes per year. There are widespread initiatives amongst Trusts to reduce this figure and the NHS SDU states the NHS can save at least £180 million per year by reducing its carbon emissions.

"As a company we realise the importance of reducing carbon emissions and use sophisticated routing software that allows a review of routes and miles. In the situation of an ad-hoc booking by a Trust, we send the closest vehicle to the customer, which further reduces the mileage driven. Besides, we've invested in Eco-vans and conduct driver assessment and training, which brings in the principles of driving to save CO2", says Brendan.

The healthcare service company has further invested in some of the most efficient diesel engines on the market that now reach CO2 emission levels as low as 174g/km and achieves combined fuel economy of up to 42.7mpg. This is due to the flexible, efficient 2.0 diesel engine and technically advanced features, including exhaust gas recirculation cooling, optimised gear ratios, improved thermal management, low rolling resistance tyres, aerodynamic kit and optional speed limiter.

SRCL further taps into advanced vehicle intelligence and monitoring to plan optimised routes that result in less fuel consumption. Benefits are all round as this raises environmental awareness, generates fleet maintenance reports and alerts (to ensure vehicles are operating resourcefully), hinder speeding and other fuel wasting behaviour.

A booking system enables direct liaison between SRCL and the MCHT's transport co-ordinator to ensure that clinical priorities are met. As a result, SRCL has met 99% of patient discharge targets for the Trust. Confidential reporting on service levels and cost is then fed back to the Trust each month through a secure NHS email account.

The PTS solution also allows SRCL to get to the patient faster and respond quickly to emergency situations – After all, the ultimate goal in all of this.

Sources referenced in the article:
NHS Carbon Reduction Strategy Update by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit: www.sdu.nhs.uk/publications-resources/42/NHS-Carbon-Reduction-Strategy-Update/
BBC report on NHS Changes: www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19721977


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