NHS staff meet unions over ‘privatisation’ fears

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CLINICIANS from Suffolk Community Healthcare met MEP Richard Howitt and a Unison campaign organiser to discuss concerns over the future of the health services provider.

NHS Suffolk announced Serco as the preferred bidder to take over the running of Suffolk Community Healthcare two weeks ago. The choice of Serco, which already delivers a number of transport, science and defence services on behalf of local and national government, caused an immediate backlash from Unison.

Its concerns were echoed by clinicians from Suffolk Community Healthcare who said: “We wanted to work for the NHS not a private company who will have different agendas to us – we did not join the NHS to make a profit.”

NHS Suffolk has said that it did not need to consult with the public about its decision as it would not result in a change to the services administered.

However, clinicians said they felt they had not been kept updated during the process.

One clinician said: “I do not feel we had enough of a chance to talk about the takeover and I do not think we were adequately told – it’s been almost played down to us.”

Unison handed a petition of 309 signatures as well as 88 letters from Suffolk Community Healthcare employees to Suffolk Primary Care Trust on March 21 before the announcement of Serco as the preferred bidder.

Unison said that Suffolk Primary Care Trust promised to respond to the petition but has yet to do so.

MEP Richard Howitt met clinicians and a Unison representative to discuss their concerns.

Mr Howitt said: “This proves our worst fears of a rush towards the privatisation of the NHS and that Suffolk is being used as a guinea pig in a way that the patients will suffer most.

“I’m supporting the petition from Unison and will be asking Suffolk PCT to overturn the decision and justify a lack of consultation.”

Following the announcement of Serco as the preferred bidder, Paul Forden, managing director of acute and community services for Serco, said: “We are looking to invest more than £4 million in technologies that will allow the staff to have more time with patients and more time to care.”