NHS England Covid Vaccine Supply Chain

Led by NHSE, and working with the DHSC, NHS logistics, Movianto, the military and a range of other suppliers, Hatmill was central to the success of the vaccination programme.



The UK’s Covid vaccination programme was an incredible success. We were the first country in the world to get vaccinations into arms, saving an estimated 128,000 lives in the first 18 months of the programme.

What most people didn’t see is what went on behind the scenes to build a first-of-its-kind national supply and distribution network, from scratch in just a matter of weeks. The new supply chain needed to span seven regions, 29 Integrated Care Systems, 223 NHS trusts and 1500 Primary Care Networks.

Led by the NHSE team, and working with the DHSC, NHS logistics, Movianto, the military and a range of other suppliers, Hatmill was central to the success of the vaccination programme. We provided strategic advice about the design, demand planning and delivery of this national priority, which was to be the key that unlocked the pandemic’s grip on the nation.

This brand-new supply chain was designed in an extraordinarily short time and deployed in just five weeks. We’re proud Hatmill was on the team central to delivering this phenomenal achievement.

The only certainty was uncertainty


With multiple vaccinations in the trial when Hatmill was engaged to provide strategic advice for both the supply chain and physical logistics solution, nothing was certain. We deployed an expert and agile team to work alongside NHSE, who led the programme, as well as the military and other supply chain and logistics specialists to set up two parallel operations – one for the vaccinations, and one for the other items needed to administer the vaccinations.

What was needed was a supply chain more complex than a grocery retailer, with multiple, regularly changing demands – sometimes hour-by-hour, and with the additional pressure of an international profile.

The known unknowns and changeable nature of the situation demanded intelligent design and scenario planning. When the first vaccine – Pfizer – was approved, it needed to be stored at -70 Celsius, would be supplied in packs of 1000 vaccinations, and would last just 120 hours once defrosted. It also had logistics challenges, such as only being allowed to travel for two journeys for a maximum of 12 hours in total once thawed.

The temperature was a challenge requiring specialist warehousing and transport in the logistics system. On the other end, the receiving vaccination centres, especially care homes, needed medical-grade storage to maximise the life of the vaccine and so the number of people who could receive it. As part of our involvement, we sourced and distributed specialist cool boxes to enable the vaccines to be received and stored.

There were many more changes as the vaccination programme progressed, from introducing new brands of vaccines with different storage and transport requirements to dealing with bad weather and reacting to changes in demand profiles as new guidelines became known.

In 2021 when the booster programme was scaled up, all eligible adults were offered a booster by December. This meant capacity needed to double, delivering up to five million vaccinations a week at peak. We ramped up deliveries and demand planning to ensure this was possible and worked with the Department for Business Enterprise Industry and Skills (BEIS) to forecast delivery profiles for each vaccination location against inbound profiles.

Sophisticated supply chain 


The supply chain that we were central to designing and deploying became one of the most sophisticated in the world. We created new systems to map demand profiles based on demographics, rather than respond to pull requests from the 2000+ vaccination locations.

We developed advanced and adaptable final mile logistics, which needed to get doses to locations ranging from care homes and GP surgeries to hospitals and roving vaccination buses.

Ensuring regional equity was critical and having the data to prove that cohorts and populations all over England had fair access to vaccinations was a critical demand from the government. With financial incentives for some sites to deliver vaccinations, but limited stock due to manufacturing constraints, ensuring vaccines were administered based on need and demographics was a top priority. Our intelligent system design meant sites could only order vaccines within tightly controlled volumes in line with their population density. We also worked hard with stakeholders, including NHS regional directors and MPs, to help them understand why demand was being managed so tightly.

The enhanced ordering and inventory control management platform we developed enabled sites to eventually control their stock within strict parameters. Additional data analytics we created alongside our data expert partner Efficio, ensured they knew about delivery slots and could plan clinics.

Our demand profile planning was constantly updated and adjusted looking at population density to ensure the right cohorts would be able to get their vaccination in the right sequence. We used this data to support and challenge regions to ensure the vaccine delivery was in line with the government guidelines.

When other vaccination brands were approved, they came with their own storage and usage requirements – including exclusions for some age groups, which we built into the system. Demand planning stepped up another level when second doses started to be administered, as we needed to plan for first and second doses, matching the brand required and any restrictions, for example midway through the vaccination programme the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided the Astra Zeneca vaccine wasn’t to be given to under 40’s.

Using our sophisticated data models, we were able to advise BEIS about how many vaccination doses were needed for England to support its purchase strategy.


The outcome


This agile and intelligent supply chain delivered more than 100 million vaccinations, 99% on time in full. The parallel non-vaccination items supply chain delivered one billion items, such as wipes, cotton wool and allergy response kits, to enable the vaccinations to be administered. For the first six months of the vaccine programme, the National Audit Office expected wastage of above 10%, but in the supply chain that was just 0.02%, due to exceptional design and planning.

Official estimates suggest that the vaccination programme saved more than 128,000 lives and prevented 24 million infections. We’re proud to have played a central role in creating the system which made that happen.



Hatmill played an instrumental role in supporting the launch and delivery of the PPE and Vaccine programmes, their operational guile and dedication to the cause was critical in the delivery of the operational elements of these programmes” Steven Gibb, Supply Chain Director – Vaccine Programme, NHS England

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