NHS Trust delays deciding on setting up ‘private company’ – keep the fight going

At a special meeting of the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust board on Thursday 29th March, took a decision to delay becoming the fifth NHS Trust in Yorkshire to establish it’s own private company to transfer support staff into.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Barnsley, Airedale, Harrogate and just recently York NHS Trusts have all established their own various named ‘Special Purpose Vehicles’ or ‘Wholly-owned Subsidiaries’, which are effectively a private company owned by the Trust, with plans to transfer various staff including estates, facilities, domestics, cleaner, porters and others into these new companies.

Whilst TUPE legislation will protect staff terms and conditions initially, future changes to the private company could leave staff open to attacks. In recognising the fears that exist on this issue, then the Trust has offered some additional guarantees. But these only extend to current staff, its clear the new company, like the one in Keighley will undoubtedly seek to ‘save’ money by employing new starters on worse pay and conditions, admitting that they will “set up new terms for new joiners” and that “there is no route under which any new starters of the subsidiary would be able to access or participate in the NHS Pension Scheme” in its response to questions.

Moreover, the proposals include plans to seek outside work to generate funds for the Trust. The desperation of this solution is the result of year on year ‘efficiency savings’ (cuts to you and me) in the NHS which even the local Trust Chief Executive stated at the meeting was “not sustainable”.

These proposals will further break up the NHS. Trust bosses have been at pains to deny this measure “is not about privatisation”, dubbing it “an alternative to traditional outsourcing”! But establishing a private company seperate to the NHS is precisely a step towards privatisation, regardless of the fact that the Trust board will control it initially.

It is as a result of the growing opposition to these companies being established across the country, that Leeds, the biggest NHS trust in Yorkshire, has delayed their proposals and attempted to offer some of the sweetners above to existing staff.

Whilst Labour’s MP in Leeds have written to the trust (although only Richard Burgon, East Leeds MP, submitted questions to the board), Leeds’ Labour councillors seem to have raised no challenge so far. But through the council’s health scrutiny committee they could play an important role in challenging these plans. Leeds TUSC candidates pledge to seek to utilise the council’s health scrutiny powers to challenge these proposals if elected.

Socialist Party members in Leeds had collected several hundred signatures opposing these proposals, which were handed by myself as local election candidate in the ward containing St James’ Hospital. In the course of our campaign in the local elections we plan on collecting hundreds more.

Both Unison and Unite reps at the meeting, as well as local campaign group Keep Our NHS public, also challenged the proposals, with plans to ballot staff in both unions for industrial action if the Wholly-owned company is established.

The decision by the Trust board to defer a decision buys further time to build up the campaign of opposition. But staff must remain fully prepared to escalate the campaign of opposition to these proposals if they are to be defeated.

Unison online petition against proposals – https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dont-transfer-loyal-staff-out-of-the-nhs

TUSC online petition against proposals – https://www.change.org/p/leeds-teaching-hospitals-nhs-trust-no-to-wholly-owned-subsidiary-at-leeds-teaching-hospitals-nhs-trust

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