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
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
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