North West Anglia Hospitals Trust moves to outsource services in midst of coronavirus pandemic

North West Anglia Hospitals is planning to outsource a raft of services, including logistics, patient services and catering, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, UNISON warns.

The proposals would be risky at the best of times but are ‘downright reckless’ in the midst of a public health emergency, says the union.

It would mean all ‘soft facilities management’ services – such as cleaning, catering, patient services, logistics, post, linen and accommodation – at Hinchingbrooke and Stamford hospitals, as well as some at Peterborough, would be outsourced.

The private firms make their profits by cutting staff salaries and conditions below the agreed NHS rates. Outsourced cleaners at the Trust are already paid worse than their NHS-employed colleagues despite their vital role in hospital operations.

Pandemic response requires all parts of the health service to work closely together so separating out different parts would be counter-productive, warns UNISON.

North West Anglia NHS Trust was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission last year because it was not safe, responsive or well led enough. UNISON says the outsourcing of services would only make this worse.

Hinchingbrooke was the first NHS hospital to be run by the private sector when Circle took it over in 2012, but performance was so bad and the firm was not making enough money, so handed the hospital back just three years later.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Jo Rust said: “It’s simply staggering that North West Anglia NHS is plotting to fragment so many of its vital services in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in generations.

“Cost-cutting firms running cleaning, catering and other hospital facilities always presents a risk to patient safety but to do it now is downright reckless.

“It’s also worrying to see that the Trust hasn’t learnt from the failed privatisation experiment at Hinchingbrooke that showed outsourcing is an unsuccessful way of delivering public services.

“NHS chiefs must abandon these dangerous plans so we can all pull together through this crisis.”