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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 06:12 GMT 07:12 UK
NHS staff out in national strike
NHS Logistics picket line
Staff are "angry and disappointed" at the sell off of NHS Logistics
Hundreds of NHS workers have gone on strike, in the first national walkout in the health service for 18 years.

Staff who work for the delivery arm of the health service in England are angry their jobs are being privatised.

The supply agency NHS Logistics is due to be handed over to German transport company DHL from the start of October.

There were fears the 24-hour walkout may leave hospitals and GPs short of equipment, but the government said disruption was being kept to a minimum.

The rest of the staff in the NHS will be watching what's happening to NHS Logistics
Karen Jennings, of Unison

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Contingency plans are in place and are working well. There are no reports of any problems."

Reports from the distribution centres in Derbyshire, Cheshire, West Yorkshire, Kent and Suffolk suggested the strike was being "solidly" supported, according to the workers' union Unison.

Unison also said other health workers, including nurses, and fire-fighters had visited some of the picket lines to show solidarity with the strikers.

The head of health at Unison, Karen Jennings, said: "What we're very clearly trying to say to the government is let's go back to partnership, let's go back to talking, let's get a consensus around what the NHS should be like.

"The rest of the staff in the NHS will be watching what's happening to NHS Logistics."

Little chance

A second strike is due on 26 September with more action to follow.

But their walkout looks to be in vain after Unison scrapped plans for a judicial review to reverse the deal after being told it had little chance of succeeding.

NHS Logistics supplies about 50,000 lines of products, including bedpans, latex gloves, syringes, bandages, medical equipment and food.

But from the start of October it will be run by DHL in a deal the government says will help save 1bn over 10 years.

The most recent major health service strike was when midwives were involved in a pay dispute in 1988.

Footage of NHS staff on the picket line

Union names date for NHS strike
15 Sep 06 |  Health
Health secretary defends sell-off
12 Sep 06 |  Politics

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