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Support services for the Department of Health and Social Care

We have information relating to Healthy Start, which includes the Healthy Start vitamins, the Nursery Milk Scheme and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.

Healthy Start

If you are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.

If you are eligible, you will be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops. We will add your benefit onto this card every 4 weeks.

You can use your card to buy:

  • plain liquid cow’s milk
  • fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables
  • fresh, dried and tinned pulses
  • infant formula milk based on cow’s milk

You can also use your card to collect:

  • Healthy Start vitamins, which will support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • vitamin drops for babies and young children, suitable from birth to 4 years old

Find out more information about Healthy Start and Healthy Start vitamins.​​​​​​

Nursery Milk

The Nursery Milk Scheme provides 189ml (1/3 pint) of milk per day to children under the age of 5.

The child must attend one of the following:

  • a child minder for at least 2 hours a day
  • a private or local authority nursery for at least 2 hours a day

Babies under the age of one receive their milk as infant formula.

Find out more information about the Nursery Milk Scheme.

School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme​​​​

The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme provide all Key Stage 1 children (typically aged 4 to 6 years old) with a free piece of fruit or veg each school day. Children must be in fully state-funded infant, primary or special schools in England to get this.

Find out more information about the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.

Find out more about the Essential Medicines Buffer Stock and Childhood Vaccines.

Essential Medicines Buffer Stock (EMBS)

Many lifesaving medicines or active substances used to produce lifesaving medicines are now sourced entirely outside of the UK or even the European Union.

Some medicines are sourced in countries that have uncertain political and regulatory systems or may be prone to natural disaster.

As globalised manufacturing continues to grow, so does the chance that the supply chain of essential medicines will be disrupted.

We work with the Department of Health to procure and manage an Essential Medicines Buffer Stock to ensure that a stockpile of around 300 different essential medicines is maintained by UK wholesalers.

This stock is:

  • able to maintain the healthcare needs of the UK in the event that the supply chain is disrupted
  • located and stored by 28 suppliers at 38 storage sites across the UK
  • can be bought back by contractors and released through the usual routes across the UK in the event of a shortage
  • subject to the individual contractor's internal audits
  • subject to an audit carried out by the NHSBSA on behalf of the Department of Health at least once each year

Childhood vaccines

The Department of Health immunisation program plays a vital role in the prevention of many serious childhood illnesses. These include:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • Whopping Cough
  • Meningitis
  • MMR

The inventory of vaccines used is operated alongside Immform, an online ordering solution, to:

  • collect data on vaccine uptake
  • collect data incidence of influenza and influenza-like-illness
  • provide vaccine ordering facilities for the NHS

The program requires a cost effective and fit for purpose logistics service for the storage, ordering and distribution of vaccines to hospitals, GP surgeries, health centres, and other locations throughout the UK.

The service is provided through a third party contractor with the NHSBSA working alongside the Department of Health to deliver the governance and operational management in line with:

  • supplier commercial agreement
  • UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency license guidelines
  • industry recognised Good Distribution Practices (GDP)

This makes sure that:

  • medicinal products are stored and distributed safely and securely and under appropriate ambient conditions
  • storage conditions are monitored at all times
  • contamination from other products is avoided
  • movement and disposal of stock is correctly audited

The Immform ordering and inventory management system supports 8,500 GP surgeries and over 19,000 users in total.

Find out more information on childhood vaccines.