Staff at five NHS Logistics depots launched a series of 24 hour strikes on 21 September in protest over the government’s decision to hand the business over to DHL Logistics. The DHL contract is worth £1.6bn over ten years. Operations, including 1,650 staff were due to be transferred to DHL on 1 October.
NHS Logistics has won a string of awards over the past few years for improving operational efficiency. It handles the warehousing itself but has a contract with TNT for its deliveries which runs until 2008. It is unusual as it does not have a monopoly – hospitals can source products from any supplier they choose.
Klaus Zumwinkel, chief executive officer and chairman of DHL parent Deutsche Post World Net, described the contract as a significant success. “We now reap the benefits of both our internationalisation strategy and our broad product range.”
Health minister Andy Burnham said the DHL deal could save the NHS £1bn over ten years and create more than 1,000 new jobs.
Unison, the public service union, has vowed to fight the sale of NHS Logistics and is holding strikes at the distribution centres at Alfreton, Runcorn, Normanton, Maidstone and Bury St Edmunds. Karen Jennings, Unison head of health, said: “The government has not listened to the workforce or to reason. Staff across the NHS will be watching this privatisation deal which will be viewed by many as symbolic of what’s to come.”
Neil Crossthwaite, managing director of TNT Logistics UK said: “TNT Logistics employees are not participants in this dispute or the strike action. We have advised our employees to fulfil their normal roles and responsibilities as requested by our customer NHS Logistics and work normally. We have advised our own trade unions of our position.”
DHL will operate the contract under the title of NHS Supply Chain service and will handle some 500,000 products supporting 600 hospitals and other health providers.