The government has awarded a £730m NHS logistics contract to Unipart Logistics after a dispute over the award was dismissed by the High Court.
In July DHL Supply Chain, which previously held the contract, took the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to court over the award, claiming the department had behaved in an improper manner during the tender process.
DHL claimed DHSC had incorrectly scored Unipart on its ability to deliver in the evaluation process. It applied to the High Court for summary judgement in its favour.
But High Court judge Mrs Justice O’Farrell ruled in favour of DHSC, saying DHSC “has a real prospect of successfully defending the claim” and so DHL was not entitled to summary judgement.
DHSC applied to the court for a suspension of the contract to be lifted, which was granted.
The judge noted: “In this case, the public interest militates very strongly in favour of lifting the suspension.”
The contract award comes amid sweeping changes to the NHS procurement and supply model as part of an attempt to centralise health service procurement and save money.
Unipart will be tasked with delivering medical devices and hospital consumables (other than medicine) to NHS trusts, warehousing, inventory management, order processing and delivery, and a subcontracted home delivery service, which makes up 10% of the contract.
It is the biggest of 13 new national contracts forming the new NHS Supply Chain, which the government claims will generate savings of £2.4bn over five years. It will start at the end of February 2019.
Health minister Steve Barclay said: "Our long-term plan will see billions of pounds invested into the NHS, but we have to make sure that every penny of this is spent as wisely and effectively as possible.
"A modern health service shouldn't involve 234 separate trusts spending time and money negotiating different contracts and prices for the same thing. That's why our work to centralise how the NHS buys goods and services is crucial.
"By streamlining the process and freeing trusts up from having to do this, we will save staff valuable time, save huge amounts of money and be able to reinvest the savings into patient care and frontline services."