Recent bouts of severe weather that hit parts of the British and Irish coast highlighted the strength of pharmaceutical wholesaler, Alliance Healthcare’s, winter preparedness – ensuring vital deliveries of medicines reach customers and patients, wherever possible.

Storm Ophelia hit Northern Ireland on Monday 16 October with winds up to 80mph, causing huge disruption throughout the country. Pharmacies and businesses closed early due to concern for the safety of their staff and customers. More than 16,000 homes were without electricity, all public transport was cancelled and schools were closed for two days. During this time, Alliance Healthcare teams made every effort to make all deliveries before pharmacies closed, with dedicated drivers committed to completing deliveries where possible.

Due to the adverse weather conditions, the Belfast Service Centre was forced to close early and, in line with other businesses in the area, sent staff home and cancelled the evening shift. However, the very next day Alliance Healthcare teams rallied around to start the morning shift early, to try and deliver the impacted orders before businesses closed. The team worked extremely hard, putting patient safety first.

Oliver Cofler, Operations Director, for Alliance Healthcare UK, noted being prepared for any kind of severe weather is a key priority for the company.

“Our preparedness for extreme weather events continues throughout the year, and we ensure we have the right contingency plans in place in the event of disruption to our service. We recently invoked our severe weather crisis plan in Northern Ireland, and the teams responded really well.”

This year, Alliance Healthcare has increased its resources to support the increased workload over the busy Christmas peak period, with more teams working in the operations than ever before, as well as investing in an additional 50,000 totes to support deliveries. We have added more hours into our operations to make sure we have the right level of resourcing to meet the increased capacity, and to help us manage demand. Additionally, equipment has been provided to all Service Centres to ensure they can remain operational during extreme weather, including 4X4 all-terrain vehicles, yard grit, salt, de-icers, snow shovels and weather-resistant clothing for teams.

Activities undertaken by Alliance Healthcare to prepare for any potential disruption to service include:
  • Advance deliveries to customers prior to the Christmas and New Year period and daily calls during winter peak times to ensure stock levels are maintained.
  • Kitting out vehicles with snow kits including shovels, bags of grit, winter coats, winter tyres, snow chains and snow socks where needed.
  • Using alternative transport to make deliveries, if needed, in emergency situations.
  • Establishing contact with local emergency services to facilitate a coordinated response to maintain an emergency supply.
  • Providing regular communications to all customers via various channels in an emergency situation e.g., through the website, call centre, direct emails and via drivers.
  • Proactively sharing Christmas and New Year operating hours with customers, along with the out-of-hours emergency orders processes, to help customers plan their order schedules, and ensure patient safety.

“As always, the safety of patients, and our own people, remains our core priority. All our teams are briefed on our standard operating procedures and “winter-driving tips”. We also manage driver’s mobile numbers to ensure all our drivers are contactable if they’re on the road during dangerous conditions.

“Our teams understand the impact our deliveries can have on people’s health, and we remain dedicated to patient safety, doing whatever is possible to ensure our customers receive the products they order, even in logistically challenging winter conditions.” Mr Cofler added.

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