RCN congress condemns trend of transferring NHS staff to private employers

Transfers of NHS staff to private companies to save costs condemned by congress speakers

Trade union committee member Mike Travis spoke against the transfer of staff
to private companies. Picture: John Houlihan

The practice of NHS trusts transferring staff to private employers has been condemned by RCN congress.

RCN North Yorkshire branch member Gwen Vardigans led the call to deplore the practice of trusts seeking to reduce costs by transferring facilities staff to the employment of private companies.

Staff who are moved to such firms are no longer NHS employees and so are outside Agenda for Change terms, meaning they are unable to belong to the NHS pension scheme. There is also uncertainty over protection of their current terms and conditions.

Motivated and proud

Ms Vardigans urged the congress audience in Belfast to show solidarity with those affected, who include cleaners, facility workers and domestic staff.

‘It is reprehensible to single out this group, who are hard-working, motivated and proud of their role and their contribution in the team of the NHS.

‘The public are so far blissfully unaware, so let’s expose this disreputable practice.’

Ms Vardigans said privatisation of such services had been attempted in the past but had proved ill-suited to the NHS.

‘Some facility functions such as cleaning have been outsourced before, only to be taken back in-house when inadequate standards of cleaning showed an increase in hospital-acquired infections,’ she said.

Best for patients

However, RCN public health forum member Denise Thiruchelvam cautioned against the view that any privatisation of the NHS was bad.

‘I can understand the fear when we talk about the privatisation of the healthcare system and we see the headlines that our NHS is being privatised,’ she said.

 ‘I currently work for (a private service) and I’ve got to be quite frank, it is the best organisation I have ever worked for,’ said Ms Thiruchelvam, who is deputy chief nurse at First Community Health and Care, which provides community healthcare services in east Surrey and parts of West Sussex.

Liverpool nurse Joseph Mcardle said: ‘We can’t put a blanket ban on limited companies because some of them do very good for our patients, and our prime purpose is to do the best for our patients.’

However, many other speakers including trade union committee member Mike Travis spoke against the transfer of staff to private companies.

Jobs at risk

‘What happens to our porters and our cleaners and our domestics and ancillary staff today will be what happens to us in the future,’ he warned.

‘Across England a lot of our nurse banks have already been commercialised through NHS Professionals and agencies like that – your jobs are at risk.’

NHS foundation trusts can create subsidiary companies to provide patient or support services under powers granted to them by the Health and Social Care Act 2003.

Even if staff’s current terms and conditions and working arrangements are protected by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, there are concerns that such protection may be only short term.


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