18 September 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Staff at NHS Logistics will stage two 24-hour strikes over the outsourcing of their service to German supply chain firm DHL.
The first will take place this week, running from 10pm on Thursday 21 September. The second date will be announced this week and is expected to happen before the end of the month.
As reported (Web news, 5 September) the £3.7 billion-a-year, 10-year deal to outsource much of the purchasing and delivery of NHS goods was signed on 4 September by the Department of Health. DHL is to handle logistics with its subcontractor, US healthcare company Novation, carrying out procurement.
However, health service union Unison plans to use a judicial review to try to overturn the decision. When balloted on strike action, 74 per cent of NHS Logistics Unison members supported the move.
Karen Jennings, Unison head of health, said: "Our members voted overwhelmingly for the strike action. They have a very strong sense of loyalty to the NHS and have worked hard to make NHS Logistics a highly competitive, innovative service. Last year it delivered savings to trusts of £2.8 million - cash that can be ploughed back into front-line services."
NHS Logistics employs more than 1,000 staff operating from distribution centres at Alfreton in Derbyshire, Runcorn in Cheshire, Normanton in West Yorkshire, Maidstone in Kent and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
Some 1,650 staff from NHS Logistics and parts of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency will transfer to the DHL operation on 1 October.