Globalization of products and services is here to stay but over-reliance on overseas suppliers carries inherent risk. The current UK shortages of PPE during COVID-19, are due in part to a lack of domestic manufacturing capacity and thus control.
COVID-19 has been a wake-up call on a multitude of levels but as much as we need our essential NHS and key workers, perhaps, just as crucially, we also need UK suppliers.
For decades, globalisation has delivered lower prices by outsourcing manufacturing and services to those parts of the world where labour costs are cheap. COVID-19 has delivered a brutal reality check when sufficient supply of ventilators or essential PPE has not been available to meet demand. Reliance on global supply chains has been shown to carry significant risk.
The recent UK COVID-19 test kit fiasco (a £16 million spend on a test that does not work) has also demonstrated the dangers of importing diagnostics from producers who work to different standards.
We cannot and should not over-rely on imports. When the COVID-19 crisis is over, we must not allow ourselves, as a country, to again be over-dependent and vulnerable.
Often embedded in the sale of single-use medical devices, a number of offshore companies are attempting to sell their medical devices to the NHS now.
So here’s 7 reasons why, at ECG On-Demand, we think it’s better to buy British.
- CQC inspected UK healthcare providers are independently quality assured. The 2008 Health and Social Care Act makes the supply of registrable medical services, without CQC registration, a criminal offence. Consequently, buying unregistered medical services not only puts patients at risk due to a lack of independent quality assurance, but also has the potential to severely compromise the position of CQC registered customers.
- CQC inspected UK healthcare must comply with UK data protection law. UK data protection law is governed by GDPR. GDPR prohibits the transfer of sensitive personal data outside the EEA. Overseas providers often subcontract Holter analysis out to developing countries where labour is cheap. Patient data transfer to a GDPR non-compliant company, exposes the customer to potentially eyewatering fines of up to £17 million or 4% of annual turnover. A sobering amount.
- CQC inspected UK healthcare providers understand NHS data protection. NHS England requires all processors of NHS personal data to have completed their NHS Data Protection and Security (DPS) Toolkit. When sending NHS data overseas, express consent must be obtained from NHS England. It is regarded as good practice that NHS patient data can only be accessed via an HSCN connection.
- CQC inspected UK healthcare providers employ appropriately qualified staff. The CQC mandates that all UK clinical staff are appropriately qualified and assessed. The assurance of clinical staff quality is difficult when work is sent overseas and near impossible when further sub-contracted out to developing countries where labour is cheap. Some overseas providers do not even employ clinically qualified staff to produce their reports.
- CQC inspected UK healthcare providers are adequately insured. Inspected healthcare providers must demonstrate to the CQC that they meet the minimum insurance requirements to carry out their work. If the medical service is being sold as a device, it is unlikely that the professional negligence or medical malpractice cover will be in operation. In the event of a patient claim, the customer may find themselves “holding the buck”.
- CQC inspected UK healthcare providers are obliged to be truthful in their advertising and claims. Overseas companies are able to avoid the scrutiny of the UK Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). The ASA is unable to investigate unsubstantiated clinical performance claims from overseas companies unless the advert is aimed specifically at UK customers. This loophole is open to abuse.
- UK companies fund the NHS. UK companies that employ UK clinical workforces and declare their profits in the UK, pay UK corporation tax, income tax and national insurance. A significant proportion of a healthcare product or service sale to the NHS, by a UK company, flows back to the NHS via UK tax receipts.
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