‘Decade of misery’ looming for Luton Hospital staff and patients, unions warn

Bosses at Luton & Dunstable Hospital are preparing to unleash a ‘decade of misery’ on staff and patients with plans for a huge outsourcing contract, trade unions warn today.

Unions are calling for domestic, catering and cleaning services to be brought back in house once transnational Engie’s contract ends next year.

But instead hospital chiefs are offering a 10-year contract for the services, while threatening to outsource a number or employees currently working directly for the NHS.

The announcement comes just a month after UNISON/ComRes polling showed that a majority of the British public think transferring NHS staff to private companies is “unacceptable.” 54% of people were against outsourcing, with only 34% saying it is “acceptable.”

It will also put the L&D at odds with the domestic and catering services at Bedford Hospital – the two Trusts are expected to merge next year – where managers have pledged not to explore outsourcing for at least the next year.

Unions have been pushing for the outsourced domestic and catering services at L&D to be brought back in house, citing the creation of a three-tier workforce, with different sets of pay and conditions for staff transferred from the NHS and those employed by contractor Engie at different times since it won the contract in 2015.

A new contractor would be likely to create an even more unfair situation for staff, say unions.

But hospital bosses claim it would be financially unviable to bring the services back in house and so will offer private companies a new 10-year contract.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett said: “Managers at the L&D are shrugging off the concerns of the public and staff, ploughing on with a failed outsourcing model without even considering the sensible option to bring services back in house.

“Private firms’ main interest is profit not public service. Any new contractor will try to drive down wages and cut corners to make more money out of the NHS.

“These plans will unleash a decade of misery on staff and patients, with worse pay, worse conditions and, ultimately, a worse hospital.

“L&D must abandon outsourcing and bring these services back into the NHS. It’s what staff and patients deserve.”

GMB regional organiser Hilda Tavolara said: “We are extremely concerned that if the catering, domestic and housekeeping services are put out to wider tender, staff will be denied the equal and fair treatment they deserve.

“The outsourcing of the service was principally a cost-saving measure which was to the detriment of vital workers who deserve to be treated fairly by their employer.

Staff are expected to do the same amount of work, if not more. This has had a knock-on effect on the patients for whom our members work to provide support every day, along with the patients’ families and visitors.

“These services should be brought back in house, not given over to any other private company.”