Government cuts to NHS supply chain causing hospital PPE delays and must be reversed

Cost cutting measures imposed by government on NHS procurement need to be reversed because they are causing delays in the supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) to hospitals due to understaffing, Unite said today (Wednesday 1 April).

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said warehouses run by Unipart – which is contracted on behalf of NHS supply company Supply Chain Coordination Limited (SCCL) to provide general health service equipment – are ‘struggling to keep up with demand’ and that staff are ‘exhausted’.

SCCL, which is wholly owned by the secretary of state for health and social care, supplies a range of non-specialised equipment and supplies, including PPE items such as hand sanitiser, face masks and gloves, to NHS trusts nationwide.

The union said army personnel are now working in warehouses run by Unipart for SCCL, which has been mandated to save the NHS £2.4 billion by 2022/23 through the unification of health service procurement, so that orders can be fulfilled more quickly.

Unipart is contracted to run warehouses in Alfreton, Bridgewater, Maidstone, Normanton, Rugby, Runcorn and Bury, as well as the delivery network, on behalf of SCCL. Unite represents around 150 drivers at Unipart, as well as a number of warehouse staff at all of SCCL’s warehouses.

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “SCCL warehouses contracted out to Unipart are struggling to keep up with demand. 

“Because of a shortage of workers, our members are working flat out to ensure supplies to hospitals across the country are being replenished and the British Army has been brought onboard to assist. 

“The situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible so that vital supplies get where they need to be on time and exhausted warehouse staff can return to working sustainable hours. 

“Though SCCL, Unipart has been tasked with helping to save the NHS £2.4 billion by 2022/23. These government imposed cuts must now be reversed, and spending directed to making sure that staffing levels are adequate enough to ensure staff are rested and can work safely and so that deliveries are provided on time.

“We reiterate that Unite members who are drivers and warehouse staff for Unipart are bravely working flat out to ensure hospitals are supplied with what they need during this crisis.” 

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