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From Ilkley Gazette, 7th September 2017
Written by Annette McIntyre

A TRADE union has blasted what it says are "disastrous" plans to create a company to run major parts of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. UNISON, backed by Keighley and Ilkley MP John Grogan, said the move would amount to privatisation, and would destroy staff pay and conditions.

But Airedale NHS Foundation Trust stressed no decision has been made yet, adding: "Establishing a separate company to run these services would enable them to work together more efficiently, run their own budgets, make their own decisions and bid for other contracts, while keeping them in the Airedale family, supporting our clinical services to provide high quality care for patients."

UNISON wants Airedale's board of directors to shelve the proposals. If approved they would see a new "subsidiary organisation", wholly owned by the trust, formed to run estates, facilities and procurement services.

These include services like hospital porters, cleaners, ward catering and laundry.

Michael Parkinson, UNISON area organiser, said: “This would erode the goodwill which exists in the NHS in Airedale between the employer, employee, patients and their families.

"If this disastrous privatisation plan is approved, the new company would operate in an environment where profits can be generated by targeting staff pay and pensions.

“We're deeply concerned about how such a move would affect job security of existing staff and the potential race to the bottom when employing new staff and competing for new business."

Mr Grogan said: "A separate company with it's own board and management would duplicate costs and administration at a time when every penny of NHS spending is important.

"New staff joining this company wouldn't automatically get NHS terms and conditions, and I think low paid staff would suffer most.

"Porters doing the same job would be on different almost certainly lower rates of pay.

"Health experts tell me one of the main motivations to set up such companies is so VAT can be claimed back, which the NHS itself cannot do.

"But if every trust did this the exchequer would lose millions – money that could be spent on giving nurses a decent pay rise.

"Hospital managers argue the new company would be able to bid to bring back services such as catering in-house, but they did that anyway for cleaning without costly new structures.

"There are other ways to save money. Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG and GPs have intensified their efforts to improve co-operation.

"Better working together between these organisations could lead to huge savings in paperwork regarding contracts between them.

"And there's a great deal to be saved by reducing reliance on agency staff.

"I've had a good series of meetings at the hospital and there was much we agreed on.

"Support for a new medical school at Bradford University which could increase the supply of doctors was one example."

The Airedale spokesman said: "The foundation trust board of directors hasn't yet made a decision, there's more to do to explore the benefits and to get feedback from staff.

"We're committed to consulting fully with our staff. We've already written to staff in those services, engaged with our recognised trade unions and are holding open forum meetings for staff and their representatives to ask questions.

"A full business case will go to our board of directors meeting on October 25."