The board of directors at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has approved controversial plans to move hundreds of workers to an independent company.
Bosses will now consult with more than 700 staff regarding their transfer from the NHS to a subsidiary company called Derbyshire Support and Facilities Services (DSFS).
People working in finance, IT, procurement, clinical engineering and estates and facilities will be affected.
DSFS – which is expected to launch on December 1 – will be wholly-owned by the trust and all transferred staff will keep all their existing terms and conditions, employment rights and liabilities.
According to the trust, DSFS will safeguard services, protect jobs for hundreds of people and save money.
Members of the UNISON union held a protest before the board of directors made its decision yesterday.
Protesters believe the subsidiary company is ‘a form of backdoor privatisation’ and fear it will have ‘direct consequences for healthcare staff and potentially damaging ramifications for the NHS’.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said: “I am extremely disappointed that they have decided to push ahead with the creation of a wholly-owned subsidiary despite the protestations of thousands of local people including hundreds of staff at Chesterfield Royal Hospital.
“Moving hundreds of staff who have dedicated their careers to the NHS, with great pride and dedication, will create a divisive two-tier workforce.
“The suggestion that non-medical staff are somehow less a part of our NHS than those who deliver medical services should have been rejected.
“I have previously met with staff, unions and directors at the hospital and I will continue in that dialogue with them and the Government to ensure that any changes don’t lead to a poorer service or a two-tier workforce.”
Subsidiary companies were endorsed through legal legislation by the Labour Government in 2006 and are now increasing in number across the NHS.
Under the current Tory Government, Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust needs to save £8million in 2018-19.
Lee Outhwaite, director of finance at the trust, said: “I know the initial announcement created anxieties and that it’s been a worrying time for colleagues. I still believe that being open and honest, to engage staff and others, at the start of the process, was the right thing to do, so they could contribute their views and thoughts. They have helped to shape this business case, with what matters most to them in terms of safeguarding their future employment.
“As a board we have carefully considered all options and built in protection for the staff transferring over - to prevent any negative impact. We agree that this is the right time to take action by establishing a wholly owned subsidiary, but with the knowledge that staff will be concerned about the prospect of moving into the company and what it will mean for them. The trust is absolutely committed to working with them over the next few months to ensure that we secure their valuable and essential services and jobs.
“DSFS will look after all of those staff that work so hard, often behind the scenes to enable clinical staff to look after our patients. The wholly-owned subsidiary will have a key role in our organisation’s future and in the local economy - helping us to maintain a full portfolio of clinical services, safeguarding a whole range of roles and opening up new opportunities. Above all, in taking this decision, the board are setting out to work in partnership with staff to create a good place for people to work, where patients are given the best possible care, from within first-class facilities that offer exceptional support services.”
A trust spokesperson added: “Described as ‘one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make in our 15 years as an NHS foundation trust’, board members agreed that creating an independent company was a really tough strategic move to make, necessitated by the current NHS climate.
“The trust already faces an £8m financial savings challenge for 2018-19 – trying to meet an increase in demand for care with no growth in funding.
“Both executive and non-executive directors felt that right now creating a subsidiary 100 per cent owned by the trust will help to preserve jobs ‘in-house’, is the best way of preventing potential outsourcing to the private sector or reducing staffing numbers and will enable support services to operate in a more dynamic way.
“The new company will benefit from running healthcare facilities and support services on a more commercial footing – to best practice quality standards, in a cost effective way and giving the public value for the money they put into the NHS.
“The business case the board worked through sets out potential savings of between £2-5m a year over the next five years – including savings realised by a different workforce model, efficiencies to revenue and capital costs and opportunities to increase income by providing services to other public sector organisations.”