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EXCLUSIVE: Roma responds to supply NHS in nation’s hour of need

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Roma Medical, commonly known in this sector as a distributor of electric scooters and powerchairs, has stepped up in the country’s time of need with important NHS supply.

As the coronavirus struck, Roma was ready to scale down operations due to the government lockdown but when the NHS came calling, everything changed.

Roma Medical, among other products, supplies the NHS with a range of portering chairs, commodes and wheelchairs meaning it is on the NHS supply chain framework. Having that relationship with category managers put it in a perfect position to be of service when the COVID-19 crisis hit.

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Around a month ago, when the Covid-19 contingency planning started, Roma was approached by NHS Supply Chain with an enquiry 500 drip stands which quickly changed and scaled up to 10,000, a demand described by those at Roma as “unprecedented.”

In conversation with the company’s national sales manager for health, Lee LeBrocq made it clear that from the initial call with the NHS, it was obvious that a considerable scale-up would be required.

This led LeBrocq to contact Roma’s director of design and development to ask if it was feasible as it would need a new design that must be compliant, easy to transport and be fit for purpose. Within 24 hours we had a design that worked, LeBrocq explained.

He said: “One of our biggest challenges was sourcing materials as most suppliers of raw materials and components were closing due to the lockdown. We had to work with limited suppliers in order to source materials and components along with our own inventory. NHS Supply Chain approved our design quickly and provided us with a commitment of 10,000 units.

“We then needed to go through the compliance process of testing, CE marking, GTIN registration along with user manual/technical file creation. This is a process that would normally take weeks to undertake and we completed the whole process within 48 hours.”

LeBrocq went on to detail just how much of an effort it took for the business to be able to get this into action in just a matter of hours.

He continued: “It took a huge effort. That quantity of product would represent several years’ worth of volume under normal circumstances so to equip to this scale is unheard of.

“We’re experienced with the NHS and it can typically take a year or more to manage equipment replacement projects. We›ve seen nothing of this scale ever before both with volume and urgency.

While continuing to support vulnerable customers, as part of the coronavirus effort nationwide, Roma took the decision to focus on 2 lines that are solely supporting the NHS Covid-19 requirements.

Line 1 is for drip stands and Line 2 is for the Commode/Sanichair range which is also seeing a surge in demand.

The other side of Roma’s business, the one it is commonly known for among AMP readers is electric scooters and powered wheelchairs. This, understandably, has seen a drop in sales due to the lockdown.

“We were actually at a stage where we were considering to furlough employees when we received this commitment from the NHS Supply Chain. However, as it turns out, we are running 12-hour shifts, dedicated to those two lines, completely supporting the NHS,” Le Brocq explained.

Adding: “From the initial phone call, to supplying the first 500 Drip Stands was a huge turnaround. It has been a considerable challenge for the team who have pulled out all the stops. It’s an incredible achievement”

The volume produced has been split with 2,750 going to Nightingale ExCeL which is now complete. The balance is being distributed centrally by NHS Supply Chain, equipping additional field hospitals.

Roma confirmed that it was also dealing directly with the NHS procurement team in Birmingham who are involved in preparing the NEC Nightingale project which also urgently required 200 commodes.

LeBrocq outlines how this supply was a possibility as a result of creating the second dedicated manufacturing line which is also supplying other hospitals coming to us through the direct channel.

Responding to an AMP question on longevity and how the NHS has communicated, he said: “We›re in daily contact with all NHS Trusts and health boards in the UK and independently the procurement teams are giving us inquiries for large quantities of product and we are managing that by explaining what we are running at the moment and what the lead times are but what we›re finding is they can›t get product anywhere else.

“The NHS is not alone with supply difficulties as we are finding we are receiving large export orders and enquiries for the same products. Obviously everyone wants it as soon as possible. That›s the nature of this situation but the reality is lockdown has slowed down the spread of the virus enough so that they can cope with it.” LeBrocq went on: “This means we›re able to manage their expectations. This would not be possible with product sourced in the Far East which takes a minimum of 12 weeks to arrive in the UK.”

Last year, AMP caught up with Roma Medical on how a strong dealer network remains key to the company’s success.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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