Private company set to take over health services

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COMMUNITY healthcare in Suffolk is set to be run by private company Serco.

The company, which already delivers a number of transport, science and defence services on behalf of local and national government, has been named as the preferred bidder for the contract by NHS Suffolk.

It was selected over a number of shorlisted NHS providers, including West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, to deliver services to around 600,000 patients from autumn 2012.

Existing staff will transfer to the new employer retaining their terms and conditions.

Tracey Lambert, Unison eastern region’s head of health, said: “It’s an extremely sad day for people in Suffolk and NHS staff who’ll see their community service sold off in this way.

“The trust has always been recognised for delivering good quality integrated services and there is no reason for it to be hived off.

“Crucially, Serco may have experience of managing hotel services for hospitals, but they do not have a proven track record in the provision of medical care.”

Unison is angry as it says the date of announcing the preferred bidder was brought forward, which meant it had to present its petition over the divestment early.

The trade union also criticised NHS Suffolk’s lack of consultation after a street survey revealed that 74.6 per cent of people did not know that local community services had been put out to tender.

A spokesman from NHS Suffolk said: “NHS organisations have a duty to consult with the public when there are specific changes to services.

“As the divestment of Suffolk’s community services did not involve any change to services, a public consultation was not required.

“The new provider will still deliver NHS care and the same services as provided by Suffolk Community Healthcare.”

Serco has said it expects the three year contract with an estimated value of £140 million to be signed in the coming months.

Paul Forden, managing director of acute & 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.”