UNISON, the UK’s largest health union, is to ballot staff at NHS Logistics for strike action over government plans to privatise the award-winning service.
The union says staff at the five NHS Logistics depots are “angry at the proposed transfer of the entire organisation to private haulage company DHL”.
NHS Logistics is a not-for-profit organisation supplying hospitals, GP surgeries and patients with more than 43,000 items including essential surgical supplies and products ranging from aerosols and arrowroot to zinc and castor oil.
Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said:
“NHS Logistics is an award-winning organisation – an NHS success story delivering a first class service. The Government’s decision to privatise it is driven by pure dogma and an obsession with market testing.
“No wonder our members are bitter and angry about the way they are being treated. They are proud to work for the NHS and feel betrayed by a government that is handing them over to DHL, like one of the packages they deliver.
“DHL will be rubbing their hands together at the thought of getting hold of such a successful business operation, with a lucrative turnover of around £777m a year.
“Meanwhile, staff who have worked hard to build up a first class service with a world class reputation now face job cuts.
Confirming the decision to ballot memebers, Paul Harper UNISON Branch Secretary at NHS Logistics’ Maidstone Depot said:
“Strike action is a last resort but we have no choice. Members are extremely upset about the transfer and I am confident we will get a yes vote.
“We work hard to provide a first rate service to the NHS and take pride in being an essential part of the health team.
“We deliver direct to hospital wards and operating theatres so getting it wrong could be a matter of life and death. This is not a service the government should be gambling with by handing it over to a parcel delivery company.”
NHS logistics employs 1,400 staff in 5 distribution centres, making on average 1,200 deliveries a day to 10,000 delivery points. It is a not-for-profit organisation which last year delivered £10.4m of benefits to the frontline NHS including a £3m cash return to health trusts in January 2005.