The Impact of COVID-19: A Case Study from Smith+Nephew
The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted Smith+Nephew globally, first in China, and then across all of our markets. Reduced levels of elective surgeries has meant several challenging months, but it is encouraging to see recovery underway in China and starting in other places, although the pace and extent is varied and uncertain across geographies.
Throughout this period, we have prioritised the health and safety of employees and protecting jobs, supporting our customers and communities, and ensuring the business is well prepared to respond as elective surgeries start to return.
Our employees have been working remotely wherever possible, and I have been so impressed by everyone’s support and resilience during this time. Everyone’s circumstance is different, and some are really finding the working from home quite tough, but the courage, care and collaboration of our team has been hugely appreciated by everyone. There has also been a real effort to stay socially connected through virtual activities such as yoga classes, family baking, and live quizzes – which are great!
We have continued to serve our customers whist respecting any local restrictions during this time. In particular, our Trauma and Reconstruction teams have been supporting urgent patient cases, and our Advanced Wound Management teams have kept product flowing to customers in both hospital and community care settings.
In our communities, we have been supporting employee volunteering, including a number of registered healthcare professionals who wish to return to front line care. We have also been using our manufacturing expertise to support the fight against COVID-19. As part of the OxVent group, comprised of scientists, clinicians and medical technology manufacturers from the University of Oxford, King’s College London and Smith+Nephew, we quickly rose to the challenge of the anticipated need for ventilators to support the NHS in treating patients with COVID-19.
We transformed our manufacturing facility in Hull within days, but after a re-evaluation by the government, fewer ventilators were needed to treat UK patients. This was positive news and does not diminish the tireless efforts and the exceptional level of teamwork that employees have put into this project. We must carry this can-do spirit into the future.
We’ve also adopted new ways of working, for instance delivering a new global digital medical education programme from scratch in a matter of days. More than 11,000 surgeons attended these courses in April, and the programme has now been accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Now our thoughts have turned to how best to return to our workplaces. Again we have been learning from our colleagues in China, and have been adopting global principles to help ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers. Of course, our manufacturing site in Hull has remained operational throughout and has successfully adopted measures such as spilt shifts.
We are working with the ABHI to ensure that the vital role of our sales force in ensuring the safe and effective use of implantable medical devices is understood by the government and the NHS. Sales representatives provide technical and technique support in the operating theatre, they service vital equipment for safe use, and ensure the effectiveness of our supply chain partnership so that customers and their patients get the best possible continuity of supply in these challenging times.
We believe that ABHI will play a critical role in re-building the healthcare landscape as we prepare to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, so that we can ensure together with government, the NHS and the independent sector, that we offer a productive, effective and safe service.
Smith+Nephew will continue to put employees, customers and their patients, as well as the continuity of supply of our technologies at the centre of its approach.
Nikki West, SVP HR Finance, IT & Global Talent, Smith+Nephew & ABHI Board Member