One of the largest trade unions in the UK, UNISON, has publicly warned care industry executives that any outsourcing of support service functions will ‘likely to lead to opposition’ from its members, after NHS Improvement instructed all trusts located in England to create plans with neighbouring trusts for the merger of support and pathology services.
An effort to reduce the NHS providers’ £550 million deficit for 2016/17 is said to be behind the initiative, with Unison citing the Carter Review findings, which the trade union claims demonstrates ‘significant potential savings’ if pathology and support services were incorporated as one on a regional basis. Meanwhile, it’s been reported that Trusts will have to formalise their plans by this month.
However, UNISON’s deputy head of health, Sara Gorton, expressed that staff working in support functions were ‘rightly anxious’ about their future, job security and other implications of such mergers in a letter to NHS chief executives:
“Moreover, at a time when the NHS is facing huge challenges, the [instruction] could have a big impact on the morale and motivation of staff working in much-needed support services occupations, and affect the delivery of services to patients.”
“In addition to the potential for further role change and instability, the instruction also raises the prospect that organisations like yours may consider outsourcing of support services functions within the trust.”
“I need to be very clear that this option is likely to lead to opposition from members who will feel strongly about the value of having employment with an NHS organisation and will want to keep their current employer as provided in their terms and conditions.”
Gorton also explained that UNISON would use its ‘national level role’ to delve further into what procedures were anticipated for effecting the mergers, such as the type of contractual mechanisms considered.
Additionally, in a statement made by the UNISON head of health, Christina McAnea, on July 21, the trade union called for an end to NHS privatisation and welcomed the decision to shut the Strategic Projects Team (SPT) consultancy.