NHS Blood & Transplant Puts ToolsGroup at the Heart of Its Integrated “vein-to-vein” Supply Chain

14 Sep 2016

New system helps to improve patient outcomes and blood availability while minimising waste and reducing costs

LONDON, 14 September 2016 —NHS Blood & Transplant (NHSBT) has put software from ToolsGroup at the heart of its integrated “vein-to-vein” donor to patient supply chain to improve patient outcomes while delivering efficiencies and reducing waste. ToolsGroup’s SO99+ ‘Powerfully Simple’ supply chain planning software forecasts blood demand, optimises blood stocks nationally and replenishes hospital blood banks automatically, improving availability while minimising costs due to overstocking, expiry dates and excessive transport costs.

NHSBT’s new Planning and Control System, powered by SO99+, is now live nationally and is being used to forecast demand at blood product, type and group level on a hospital-by-hospital basis. This additional level of granularity enables the NHS Blood & Transplant supply chain team to respond rapidly to potential shortages and ensure that additional donors can be contacted to maintain healthy stocks of all blood products nationally and locally.

In addition, a stock management (Vendor Managed Replenishment) solution is in place at eight hospitals currently to further improve availability and replenish hospital blood banks automatically, 24/7. This solution, which integrates directly with hospital blood fridges and laboratory systems, will be rolled out to many more hospitals in the coming 2-3 years.

To minimise risk, NHSBT selected ToolsGroup and commenced roll-out after an exhaustive selection process and a successful proof-of concept using live data. The proof-of-concept demonstrated that ToolsGroup met the performance and functional requirements to handle the significant complexity associated with the blood supply chain.

Patients’ lives depend on around 6,500 donations of whole blood and platelets being made every day to meet hospital demand. Donations are processed and stored across NHS Blood & Transplant’s five manufacturing sites and fifteen Stock Holding Units across England. Over 5,000 units of red blood cells are delivered each day to hospitals across England.

Planning the end-to-end supply chain for these blood donations and deliveries is extremely complicated due to factors including:

  • Blood supply and demand variability – Supply and demand for each blood group varies significantly and can at peak period result in short supply of certain blood products.
  • Perishability of blood components – To optimise usage across different treatments, blood is subdivided into its main components – red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma. Perishability of these components varies significantly: red cells have a shelf-life of 35 days, while platelets shelf life is only seven days.
  • Storage and transport regulations – Blood products must be stored and transported in temperature-controlled, sterile environments in compliance with strict regulations.
  • Demand spikes – a single incident like a major accident, fire or terrorist attack could create a demand spike, straining the whole system. Even a single patient requiring a very specific blood product could cause a significant spike in demand over a short period of time.

This complexity, meant that NHSBT’s old system – a loose collection of manually-intensive databases and spreadsheets – grew increasingly unfit to support routine decisions, like determining the optimal blood inventory mix for a specific hospital, or performing ‘what-if’ calculations to prepare for different crisis scenarios. NHS Blood & Transplant’s new ToolsGroup-based system supports automated, real-time Integrated Supply Planning (ISP) and Stock Management/Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) and provides a much-needed ‘single version of the truth’.

The implementation involved integration with NHSBT’s legacy supply management and online ordering systems and required significant levels of testing to ensure that all potential scenarios were handled rapidly and effectively. In addition, the Planning and Control System had to comply with ISBT 128 specifications, a new global standard for the identification, labeling, and information transfer of medical products of human origin (including blood, cells, tissues, milk, and organ products). This has provided further benefits to NHS Blood & Transplant who can now manage demand for specific blood products at a very granular level, not previously possible.

According to Justin Baker, Accountable Executive PCS Project, NHS Blood & Transplant, “While the project offers great benefits to NHS hospitals and the taxpayer, nothing matters more than its potential to improve patient outcomes through improved blood availability. Our new ToolsGroup system allows us to respond faster to crises and support patients with complex requirements, like those that need multiple transfusions or have rare blood types. Feedback so far from hospitals has been extremely positive.”

Martin Woodward, Managing Director, ToolsGroup UK commented, “We often talk about supply chain planning in ‘mission-critical’ environments, but NHS Blood & Transplant’s project truly fullfils that definition. We are extremely proud to be at the heart of a system that has the potential to change or even save a patient’s life.”


NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. It is also the organ donor organization for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.


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