The original deal which NHS Supplies negotiated was heavily criticised by the NHS Transport Managers Association for being too restrictive. The NHS TMA wanted a wider choice of independent contract hire companies, and has since gone out to tender with a view to drawing up its own shortlist of suppliers and awarding a contract by August 10.
The NHS TMA's move led to NHS Supplies' second tender process, which resulted this week in the addition of Arriva as an official supplier, beating more than a dozen competitors to win the nomination.
The contract - which will terminate on the same date as the other four existing contracts, February 16, 2000 - is known to be highly price sensitive, and one of the unsuccessful bidders claimed it had priced its tender at cost, covering its overheads, but not including any profit margin. However, the company still came lower than 10th when NHS Supplies ranked the prospective suppliers.