Hospital demand and service expectations are changing. This project supported the 2016 NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) hospital logistics review; by building a discrete event simulation model and using it to test different models for delivering this operation.

Key Facts

    • Discrete event simulation models were built of the logistics operation of 5 blood centres and the hospitals they serve.
    • For each blood centre a year’s operation was modelled, considering hospital demands in terms of routine, ad-hoc and emergency deliveries as well as customer collections.
    • The models allowed NHSBT to assess the efficiency and service levels achieved by the current operation as well as assess a number of future operational models, focussing particularly on how hospitals are charged for ad-hoc deliveries.  Scenarios included the appropriate charging levels for a click and collect service, the applicability and appropriate charging structure for distance based charging and the future use of courier services.
    • Overall click and collect and distance based charging mechanisms were found to be cost effective mechanisms for providing this vital product to meet hospital unplanned demand.  The use of couriers will continue to form an important part of making this vital service cost effective.

Impact of our research

The NHS as a whole has been under increasing operational and financial pressure in recent years.  NHSBT provides a vital service to the NHS; through the supply of critical blood components to hospitals.  This project supported NHSBT by offering them a low risk approach to assess a range of possible future scenarios for the way in which their logistics operation meets hospital demand.  By increasing the efficiency of this service, the cost of the operation can reduce, ultimately freeing up resources for the NHS to provide other vital services to patients, reducing the cost to the tax payer and increasing the quality of the service to the community.

Why the research was commissioned

The way in which the NHS operates is changing, hospitals are increasingly required to operate a seven day a week service under increasing pressure to provide value for money to the taxpayer.  This means that the demands on NHSBT to provide critical blood components to support these vital services must also adapt. In 2016 NHSBT carried out a review of their hospital logistics operation. Simulation modelling offers a low risk method for assessing a range of different future scenarios and operating models to help NHSBT to consider how their operation could adapt in the future to meet service expectations at least cost.

Why Cranfield?

Cranfield Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management (CL&SCM) has been working with NHSBT for over a decade, investigating ways in which supply chain practise can be applied to improve the operation of this vital service.  Previous research has  mainly focussed on reducing wastage of blood as a vital and precious resource.  CL&SCM has significant expertise in the use of simulation for modelling supply chain operations.  This expertise along with insights into the operation of the service gleaned during the long relationship made Cranfield an excellent partner for this work. 

Facilities used

The modelling work was carried out using the University’s Lanner Witness license (discrete event simulation software).

Call to Action

It has long been known in commercial supply chains that a one size fits all management approach is rarely effective.  This study adds further weight to the argument that this is also the case for healthcare supply chains.  The fundamental requirement of these supply chain may be to provide essential services rather than make a profit, however this must be done in an efficient and cost efficient manner.  To provide the best possible service to the tax payer as funder of these services and ultimately the community as a whole.