Printers supplying the National Health Service have stepped up to the plate despite stresses in the supply chain.
Harlow Printing, which has built its business on NHS work, is working as normal. Staff who did not want to work have been given the chance to leave the business, while the South Shields printer has implemented the government recommendations around cleaning and social distancing to continue producing the collateral that is needed.
“The health service runs on paper,” says managing director Richard Walker. It accounts for some 90% of the company’s business. “It wasn’t a difficult decision for us to carry on. We explained to our people that we would have to continue working, but if some didn’t want to continue, we would completely understand. A few have left and we have implemented government recommendations. We have to keep the workforce safe.”
“We have some good people working here and we really appreciate them. They are still coming in and doing their jobs. I am walking the floor more often rather than staying in my office.”
There have been disruptions to normal communications as all hands are turned towards coping with the pandemic. “All the buyers we deal with are doing medical work,” says Chris Murley, managing director of PBL Print in Durham. The company normally supplies pallet loads of forms, posters, prescriptions sheets and on daily deliveries. These continue to go out with current orders to maintain stock levels.
It has been able to work 16 hour days with this and other work until now, keeping teams apart to prevent unwanted contamination, though Murley expects to drop to a single shift in the coming days and to furlough staff. The crisis has also meant that installation of two new Heidelberg digital presses has been delayed as have all Ricoh installations have been put on hold. It has also designed a ‘staying at home’ colouring book for children which it is selling though the liketoprint.co.uk website, with £1 from every sale going to the NHS.
CSP has been an NHS supplier for more than 40 years from its factory in Aylesford. The subsidiary of Delga Group deals with 150 healthcare institutions a month with 50 NHS contracts in place. Managing director Ian Conetta says: “The recent pandemic has meant that NHS trusts are stretched even further than normal, but the hospitals need to operate in normal fashion as much as ever. Our customers know we are reliable and responsive to their requests. Essentially, the NHS are always our priority so nothing has changed there.”
The company has implemented the first step in a disaster recovery programme, splitting storage across locations to ensure that should one site be hit by the virus, critical items would be supplied from the second site. And, Conetta explains, the company looked at what items were going to be needed to ensure supplies would continue.
“In essence, we took the pain away from the NHS, identified where there would be a need for certain clinical forms based on existing and predicted usage figures and ensured that enough stock was readily available at the drop of a hat,” he says. “We have begun to assist further with the design and manufacture of facemasks. Currently we have shipped almost 20,000 of our masks into NHS trusts across the UK.”
The call for retired staff to return to the NHS has created its own issues. It normally takes three months to bring nurses back on board, time that is not available for training on the digital systems that have been introduced in recent years. Printed forms that are easily understood are the answer.
Paragon was able to help out when artwork from one of these forms had been deleted. A single hard copy original of the 12 year old chart was found. Paragon worked over the weekend to photograph and scan the original, to create a proof for sign off and to reschedule loading on press at the Dagenham site to reproduce the much needed form.
Even with digital technology in place, paper is still the preferred communication channel. This results in the NHS consuming phenomenal amounts of copier paper as output from the network of managed printers across a hospital.
“A number of Trusts have asked if we can distribute copier paper to them,” says Walker. “It’s not possible at the price they have for this, through we are continuing to distribute facemarks and PPE. We have just started supplying non essential equipment. And we continue to supply all the personalised children’s health records for the entire country. Children are still being born.”