Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/434/5109
Stop this privatisation
NEW LABOUR health ministers have announced that DHL/Novation had been awarded the £700 million privatisation/outsourcing of NHS Logistics (NHSLA), the non-profit body that provides medical equipment, food and blankets to hundreds of hospitals and clinics daily.
By an NHSLA steward
US medical purchasing company Novation is the subject of several US investigations for alleged anti-competitive behaviour. Medical supply companies use a complex system of rebates and discounts to supply American hospitals and there are allegations that the federal-funded programme Medicare is being charged more than hospitals are actually spending.
The US Service Employees International Union (SEIU) told the inquiries: "Rising costs have lead to short staffing in US hospitals, loss of insurance for working families, over-crowded emergency rooms and growing burdens on public and private health care providers. So ... when SEIU reaches the bargaining table with hospitals, the choice is cuts in staff, wage freezes, salary givebacks or increased premiums".
Despite meetings between NHSLA UNISON stewards and the Minister of Health, and despite five UNISON depot branches campaigning to highlight the private sector's inefficiencies and promote the value of public services, Labour ministers have given the go-ahead to the deal.
They claim there is little public money to invest in NHSLA and the opportunity to move 1,500 employees off the government payroll is too good to miss. This government can always find extra money to support the war in Iraq but not to support NHSLA which returned £3 million to NHS Trusts last year. Will DHL shareholders give back a similar sum each year to the Trusts?
UNISON members fear that getting vital supplies to hospitals on time will be too demanding for a private company, raising the risk of disrupted services, even though the Department of Health say the contract will be monitored.
Last month, vital oxygen cylinders failed to reach patients in their homes and some elderly people died. These long delivery delays happened after the government had privatised supplies of oxygen.
The Labour government is now looking at privatising other agencies such as the Dental Practice Board, Prescription Pricing Authority and NHS Pensions Agency.
UNISON's national leadership condemned the privatisation and said it might consider industrial action. If the leadership's comments are serious, let's see the plan for building industrial action and broadening it out to all other health workers facing privatisation and cuts.
In The Socialist 6 April 2006: