Wide screen devices may view this page better by clicking here




spotArguments for socialism




spotAround the UK

All keywords

All Campaigns subcategories:






Black and Asian



Corporate crime



Election campaigns





Gender Recognition Act

Health and safety

Health and welfare


Human Rights

LGBT Pride

Local government

Local services

Low pay



New workers party



Post Office


* Privatisation

Public Services




Stop the slaughter of Tamils


The state



Welfare rights


Workplace and TU campaigns



Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 1080, 1 April 2020: PPE, tests, full pay - for all now

Search site for keywords: Coronavirus - NHS - Privatisation - Medical - Profit

NHS supply chain worker: privatisation has cut equipment quantity and quality

Workers need coronavirus protection, photo USAF/CC

Workers need coronavirus protection, photo USAF/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Terrified staff across the NHS are risking their health and lives treating coronavirus patients without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Barry Boden, an NHS Supply Chain worker, spoke to the Socialist about how privatisation and the pursuit of profit have impacted the shortage of quality PPE.

NHS Supply Chain provides daily medical and non-medical items to hospitals in England and Wales. We were privatised in 2006 and handed over to the multinational courier firm DHL, whose main aim was to make 'savings'.

Then, in 2018, DHL failed to win the new contract for warehousing and distribution, resulting in a fragmentation into 13 different contracts for procurement, warehouse and distribution, marketing, etc. The biggest was won by Unipart, better known for supplying components to the motor industry.

There's a managing company, Supply Chain Coordination Ltd, which sets our contracts on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care. But the divisions, and poor planning, have exacerbated the current problems.

Caught out

Preparing for Brexit, our stocks were built up, and new warehouses were opened. Then, in January, management started to reduce our stock levels - right at the time that the Covid-19 outbreak was happening in China! Now we have been completely caught out.

For the last 30 years we've been told to use the 'just-in-time' principle for supplying NHS trusts and maintaining stock levels in the network. So when there's a major outbreak, such as now, the system is already at full capacity, and therefore struggles to meet the extra demand.

Austerity has affected our operations, just as it has across the NHS. Cost-cutting has meant less experienced staff and managers, an over-reliance on agency personnel, reduced warehouse maintenance, and an underfunded internal transport system, causing logistic delays in moving stock around the network.

When I started working for NHS Supply Chain, I recall sitting down with a range of medical goods, such as wound dressings, with experienced nurses in front of us giving their clinical opinions, saying 'that's good, that's not good'.

Now the decisions are profit-driven, with much less medical input in the procurement and tendering process. This is part of why the quality of the PPE getting through to frontline staff has been so poor.

Our members have been working longer shifts for the last three months, with some already clocking up 60 extra hours plus in March, to try to provide hospitals with their PPE and normal daily medical requirements.

The PPE for NHS frontline staff has now moved to a third party, under the control of the NHS with the support of the army. But fragmentation, privatisation and a profit-led management have helped to create the current crisis in PPE.

Clinical oversight of equipment procurement must be reinstated. Massive funding for purchasing and manufacturing PPE must be made available now. Privatisation must be scrapped, and NHS Supply Chain brought back in-house, under a fully funded and democratically planned NHS.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to click here to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


Privatisation keywords:

PFI (189)

PPP (20)

Privatisation (935)

Privatised (77)

Public-Private Partnership (4)

Trusts (56)

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Article dated 1 April 2020

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party


Pay in Fighting Fund

Pay in paper and book sales


Bulk book orders

New member submission


triangle7 Mar Socialist Party & CWI broadcast: Fighting to end women’s oppression - a socialist and internationalist approach

triangle9 Mar Bristol North Socialist Party: Socialist feminism

triangle9 Mar Caerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: A socialist charter for women in the pandemic


The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party

Subscribespacer|spacerebook / Kindlespacer|spacerPDF versionspacer|spacerText / Printspacer|spacer1123 onlinespacer|spacerBack issuesspacer|spacer Audio files

International Women

International Women's Day rally, Sunday 7th March, 3pm. Click here for Facebook and Zoom links.

What We Stand For
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Platform setting: =

Desktop version