The expanding tentacles of NHS privatisation are having an adverse impact on the NHS’ flagship pathology service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London, partly owned by controversial outsourcing giant, Serco.
The warning has come from Unite, the country’s largest union which represents most of the 370-strong pathology workforce at Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.
Unite reports that there are recruitment and retention problems, plummeting morale, excessive workloads, skeleton weekend staffing levels and delays in processing patient samples.
Unite pinpoints ‘the beginning of the slippery slope’ as 2009 when there was an agreement on the provision of pathology services between the trust and Serco, currently at the centre of media reports that allege it has overcharged NHS hospitals millions of pounds.
The partnership was later joined by King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – and now operates under the name of Viapath.
Unite’s pathology members are now campaigning against plans by Viapath to transfer them from the NHS to Viapath in January, as they fear for their pay, and terms and conditions if this is allowed to happen.
Last month, staff lobbied the board members at Guy’s & St Thomas’ to get this proposal jettisoned - and Unite said management is now talking more positively to the trade unions on this issue.
Unite regional officer Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The expanding tentacles of NHS privatisation, spearheaded by Serco, are having an adverse impact on the world-class pathology service at Guy’s & St Thomas’.
“Our members have reported increased recruitment and retention issues, lower morale, skeleton weekend staffing levels and problems over service delivery since the 2009 partnership agreement.
“There have been cases of people leaving as part of ‘natural wastage’ and either not being replaced, or replaced by those with lesser skills – this can’t be good for overall patient care.
“Since the trust's recent announcement of its intention of transferring NHS pathology staff to Viapath, even more resignations have taken place.
“Our members could earn much more in the private sector or by leaving and being rehired as expensive locums in the NHS, but they are committed to the NHS ethos and see the latest Viapath plan as undermining that ethos.
Yesterday (Thursday), Unite’s pathology members voted unanimously to campaign against the plans to move their employment status from the NHS to Viapath.
Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe added: “The NHS is being privatised right before our very eyes. This is not just about our members’ pay and conditions, but is crucial about what sort of NHS this country wants – one that is dedicated to public service or one where shareholder profits of controversial outsourcing giants, such as Serco, are paramount.”
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.