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Phoenix pauses OTC orders and Trident delays deliveries due to staff shortages

Wholesaler Phoenix has suspended all orders of over-the-counter (OTC) items while Trident has implemented a 24-hour delivery delay of its products, owing to “labour market shortages” and “challenges in driver recruitment and retention”.

In an email to pharmacy contractors – seen by C+D – sent last week (September 10), Phoenix’s supply chain director Alan Fairfield said: “All OTC orders will be suspended as of today until the end of next week.

“This is necessary in order to process a backlog of orders which has arisen due to staff shortages outside of our control resulting from COVID-19 test and trace self-isolation; rising COVID-19 infection rates; and Brexit restrictions concerning who is eligible to work in the UK including depot staff and drivers,” he explained.

The supply of prescription-only medicines (POMs) is not affected, Phoenix stressed.

“Like many other sectors across the UK, the whole of the medicines supply chain is suffering from chronic labour market shortages,” Mr Fairfield said.

As well as redeploying head office staff to work in the depots, a spokesperson for Phoenix told C+D it is “continuing with [its] intensive recruitment campaign” in the hopes of “returning to business as usual as soon as possible”.


Trident anticipates return to next-day deliveries this week


In a similar communication, Trident – part of McKesson’s AAH – alerted contractors last week that “due to unforeseen circumstances, we are unable to guarantee next-day delivery at this time”.

A spokesperson for the company told C+D this morning (September 13) that it “instituted a 24-hour delay to our deliveries, however we anticipate being able to move back to next-day deliveries this week”.

“We have seen significant customer growth over recent months,” they explained. “Alongside this increase in demand, we are also experiencing challenges in driver recruitment and retention, in line with the current national picture for most logistics organisations.”

Trident is also recruiting more drivers to help mitigate issues, it said.


Alliance “business as usual”


In July, Alliance Healthcare warned that it too was feeling the effects of the “national driver shortage” and staff absences due to COVID-19 isolation measures.

However, a spokesperson for the company told C+D last week (September 10) that: “We’re pleased to say we are currently maintaining our standard, twice-daily delivery service across the UK, as we have always done even during the most challenging COVID-19 times.”

Alliance Healthcare is also recruiting for more drivers.

A spokesperson for Bestway Medhub said there was a software issue in its warehouse on Friday (September 10) afternoon, which was quickly resolved, and the service returned to “business as usual” this morning.

Bestway Medhub’s deliveries are coordinated via Alliance, the spokesperson added. As such, “we have no delivery issues at present”, they said, and “Alliance has not reported any driver shortage issues to us”.


Government measures to tackle driver shortages


As part of a package of measures to help tackle the “global” shortage of drivers, the government has announced an overhaul of the driving tests for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) as well as making up to 50,000 more HGV driving tests available each year.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The shortage of drivers is a global problem, but we’ve been taking action here in the UK to help industry leaders attract drivers and build a more resilient sector.”

Phoenix told C+D it intends to “raise [its] concerns” about the impact staff shortages is having on the medicines supply chain.

Has your pharmacy experienced delays to medicine/product deliveries over the past six months?

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