This deal slashed the number of contract hire suppliers to the NHS from 14 to four, and nominated just one independent contract hire company - Automotive Leasing - alongside the fleet funding arms of Ford, Vauxhall and Renault. The TMA claims genuine price competitiveness will only be achieved if the NHS Supplies contract contains at least seven independent suppliers alongside the manufacturer-owned contract hire companies. It also expressed concern at the £30 fee which NHS Supplies charges the nominated contract hire companies for every car they supply through the contract, a levy which raises about £1 million over three years.
NHS Supplies defended the £30 fee as a rebate built into the contract since 1964, and said it took this income into account when setting the purchasing fee charged to trusts. It also claimed it had recognised the TMA's reservations over the initial contract by going out to tender last autumn to appoint more suppliers to the choice list. But the result of this tender will lead to the appointment of just one new independent supplier to the lease car contact, to be announced at the end of May.
This falls well short of the seven additional suppliers demanded by the TMA, and the association's patience has now snapped. As a result it will go out to official tender in the European Journal for its own lease car contract, giving association members the choice of using both the TMA and NHS Supplies' contracts.