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Sustainable sanitary products for women and girls in NHS care

3 min

c. NHS Supply Chain

Under a new NHS Supply Chain framework, women in hospitals, mental health units or who are receiving long-term care, will have access to greener, more sustainable sanitary products free of charge.

Following the launch of a new NHS Supply Chain framework hospital trusts and their patients will have access to an increased choice of sanitary products, including sustainable products. The NHS Supply Chain manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products, services and food for NHS trusts and healthcare organisations across England and Wales.

This new NHS Supply Chain framework was designed with the goal to help the NHS deliver clinically assured, quality products at the best value. Aiming to leverage the buying power of the NHS, the framework will negotiate the best deals from suppliers to deliver savings of £2.4 billion. These savings will be put back into the NHS’s frontline services by the end of the financial year 2022/23.

Starting on the 1st February, the new framework which aids the availability of sanitary products is for the Maternity, Obstetrics and Gynaecological Products sections of the Trust.

Feedback surrounding the framework also highlighted the need for individually wrapped products as well as the need for ‘greener’ pads and tampons. Theresa Bowles, from NHS Supply Chain: Rehabilitation, Disabled Services, Women’s Health and Associated Consumables, provided by Collaborative Procurement Partnership, has said this about the framework, “A lot of information feeds into our listening process as we develop the framework and we take all this into consideration.”

As a result of feedback, the new framework also will supply ‘green’ sanitary products. The procurement and clinical teams worked together with new and incumbent suppliers to find more sustainable and greener products which will be available on the new framework.

Fay Allen, NHS Supply Chain’s Product Assurance Specialist, stated concerning the new framework, “The launch of this framework highlights the exceptional work and collaboration that Clinical and Product Assurance (CaPA) and Category Tower Service Providers undertake to ensure all stakeholders needs including patients and clinicians are accommodated where possible, and helps to build a greener NHS.”

The CaPA team at NHS Supply Chain also highlighted NHS England guidance on period poverty. Not only this, but they showed the need to provide sanitary products to inpatients when required. Consequently, since the summer of 2019, all women and girls being cared for by the NHS are given, on request, appropriate sanitary products free of charge.

Under the new framework, the NHS will be able to offer:

  • Products in a range of absorbency and pack sizes.
  • A choice of tampons including with and without applicator (cardboard and plastic options) and plastic-free products (e.g. organic cotton tampons with corn-starch wrapping).
  • A choice of pads including individually wrapped with products using less plastic (for example, organic cotton, no super absorbers, corn-starch film backing and wrapper).

Offering ‘greener’, more sustainable options is a positive step towards making sanitary products more accessible and environmentally friendly. Theresa also discussed the benefits of this new framework, “This is an important step in extending the choice available to people receiving care in hospitals, mental health units or who are receiving long-term care.  It is also great news that we now provide a sustainable choice with hopefully the chance to grow this further in the future.”