The estates department at Blackpool’s hospital trust is to become a subsidiary company in a move bosses hope will save up to £2.5 million a year in tax, it has emerged.
Around 200 staff, including the caretakers and engineers who look after the Victoria Hospital,are set to be affected by the move, which could happen as early as April, but have been assured their pay and conditions will remain the same, and that their pensions will be protected.
However, concern has been raised by Labour MP Gordon Marsden and local union reps, who say they were not consulted early enough and have yet to see full details.
Dion Baugh, regional organiser at Unison, said: “We would like concrete assurances. Staff want to feel confident and comfortable that nothing is going to change and unfortunately at the minute they don’t feel that.
“We want to work with the trust and we have been, but obviously our priority is to ensure our members are protected and that all departments remain within the NHS.
“If the union is not happy, we will campaign.”
Hospital finance boss Tim Bennett said: “Staff should not notice a real difference when this is up and running.
“It’s different, and it’s change, and people are understandably nervous about that.
“We don’t want to do this in such a way that it will create a lot of anxiety. There’s no need for that.”
Informal talks began with staff in June before the board was asked to move forward at a meeting last week. A formal consultation will now be held.
The new private company, which has not yet been given a name, will remain part of the NHS, with Mr Bennett saying workers will be protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE).
Unison was only involved at a regional level from late October, Ms Baugh said, though local reps were involved from the start.
Mr Marsden, who has formally expressed his concerns with the hospital, added: “I’m greatly concerned about a number of aspects of these proposals.
“The trust needs to be far more open and transparent about this.”
PROPERTY PORTFOLIO ALSO UNDER REVIEW
Health bosses are reviewing their portfolio of around 500 buildings to see what they can develop, share, or even sell.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the review is in its early stages, but guaranteed the future of Blackpool Victoria and Lytham hospitals.
It comes as the cash-strapped trust looks to make more than £20 million in savings. Financial director and deputy chief executive, Tim Bennett, said: “The recently published Carter Review urges healthcare organisations across the NHS to look at its property to see if all assets are being used to their maximum effect and we are following the guidelines in the report.”
Lord Carter’s plans to save the NHS £5 billion a year by 2020 were revealed in February and had a total of 15 recommendations.
Other areas covered include staff, procurement, use of floor space, admin costs, delayed transfers of care, and working with neighbouring hospitals.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the report and said it wanted to ‘slash bureaucracy’ so cash is instead spent on care.