Court action over NHS deal called off

21 September 2006
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22 September 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor

Unison has dropped its application for a judicial review of the government's decision to outsource much of the buying and delivery of NHS goods to a private firm.

The union made the decision after it received additional legal advice.

A spokeswoman told "Unfortunately we got some more legal advice which says the chances of this going forward are pretty slim."

It is thought this is because Unison was not involved in negotiations that led to the £3.7 billion-a-year, 10-year deal, which was awarded to German supply chain firm DHL and its subcontractor US healthcare company Novation on 4 September. The contract involves outsourcing some of the buying carried out by the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency and the delivery service performed by the NHS Logistics Authority.

The spokeswoman added: "We're going back to our industrial action strategy, which we'll take to the Labour Party conference next week."

The first of two 24-hour strikes by NHS Logistics staff is taking place today, with the second scheduled to begin at 10pm on 26 September. More than 800 NHS Logistics staff are involved in the industrial action, which has received support from some fire brigade staff and members of the Public and Commercial Services union.

On Wednesday (27 September) Unison is hosting a fringe meeting at the Labour conference to "thrash out the issues". Health minister Andy Burnham is expected to attend, alongside Unison's head of health, Karen Jennings, and John Wilkinson, director-general of the Association of British Healthcare Industries, which represents suppliers.

Unison has also requested a "contemporary motion" at the conference. If approved - and added to the agenda - it will call on the conference to agree to no further outsourcing of NHS services without "full consultation throughout the party and the NHS to consider the impact".


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