Hospital chiefs have sparked job fears among hundreds of Scarborough workers after confirming the trust is exploring setting up a new company to provide maintenance services.
York Teaching NHS Foundation Trust needs to save £1 million and Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill says he believes every penny counts when it comes to the cutbacks.
A total of 979 facilities and estates department staff, which includes cleaners, porters, and maintenance staff in Bridlington, Scarborough and York hospitals, could be affected as the trust is looking into setting up a limited liability company.
Staff are concerned that if they were to be contracted to the company they would lose out on their NHS terms and conditions such as holidays, pension and sick pay – with this also including around 220 employees in Scarborough and 120 in Bridlington.
A hospital worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Free Press that the atmosphere was “dreadful” at work since staff were informed.
They said: “Some of my colleagues have been in tears. It is just so demoralising what is going on with staff very concerned about their future. I feel Bridlington and Scarborough could be hit the worst with them being the smaller hospitals.”
It is hoped that the company will provide services across to North Yorkshire, Hull and East Yorkshire, and North Lincoln and Goole NHS Foundation Trusts meaning existing multiple contracts will be no more.
Robert Goodwill echoed the thoughts of Sir Greg Knight, Bridlington MP, regarding the proposed changes.
Sir Greg said: “There are no plans to privatise the NHS, despite the scaremongering tactics of some Labour politicians.
“However, every penny that the NHS spends on cleaners, porters and catering is a penny less that is available to spend on doctors, nurses, and medical care. I therefore would expect all good NHS Trusts to look at ways of providing non-clinical services as efficiently as possible and I see nothing sinister in the York NHS Foundation Trust examining how they spend their money in this regard.
“I would hope, however, that they would also fully confide in their staff as they look to see if there are other, more beneficial ways to provide these services.”
Hospital bosses have stressed plans are “exploratory” and no decisions have been made at this stage.
A staff notice, seen by The Scarborough News, reads: “This year we are short of our target by around £1 million, and the gap persists in future years’ plans. Across the country there is a move to create limited liability companies, whole owned by the trusts, and to deliver services from that company where it is beneficial to do so.
“It has been agreed at director level that a limited liability company will be created and this could provide services to all the public sector organisations being Hull and East Yorkshire Trust and North Lincoln and Goole Trust within our sustainable transformation plan footprint.”
The staff member believes the proposal could lead to job losses to enable the trust to make the £1 million saving.
They said: “Everyone is concerned and we need answers. Financial cutbacks need to be made but we can’t afford to keep losing staff on the front line providing a service for patients.”
Terry Cunliffe, Unite the Union regional officer, said: “There has been no consultation with workers regarding setting up a private company and we will push for this to happen. We don’t know the implications at this stage but Unite will fight against any attempt by York Trust to create a private company.”
Brian Golding, director of estates and facilities, said: “Given the financial pressures that we and our local NHS partners currently have it has been agreed that we will explore creating a limited liability company that could potentially provide certain services to all of the public sector organisations within our region.
“The avenues that are being explored are in procurement, primarily in estates contracts which are currently outsourced to third parties (for example lifts maintenance), where the buying power of multiple trusts could be beneficial in terms of savings for each trust, protecting front line services.
“The limited liability company would only procure and administer those contracts on behalf of the trusts involved.
“The transfer of in-house functions is not at this stage under consideration, but if it did appear favourable in the future then detailed consultations with those staff likely to be affected would be carried out.”