The double whammy of two key failed NHS policies – privatisation and PFI debt – have contributed to the possible merger of two mid-Anglia NHS trusts, with possible adverse effects on patient care and jobs.
Unite, the country’s largest union, is raising these concerns as Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and Stamford NHS Trust agreed to a review of ‘organisational form’.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, is due to meet managers of the trusts tomorrow (Thursday 7 January) and Friday (8 January), along with other unions, to probe exactly what this will mean for patient care and jobs at the financially challenged trusts.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Ian Maidlow said: “If you look at the back story you can see a double whammy of failure here of two key NHS polices – privatisation and the private finance initiative.
“We are very concerned about what this could mean for patient care and also for the jobs of hardworking health professionals who have been caught in the middle of the vicious ideological onslaught on the NHS ethos by the Tories since 2010.”
The Huntingdon hospital was the first in the NHS to be run by a private company Circle but it walked away in January last year – and the hospital was returned to NHS management in April. The Peterborough & Stamford trust has been burdened by debt problems caused by a 35-year PFI scheme.
Ian Maidlow added: “It is too early to say precisely what changes are being proposed to services, and we will work hard to represent the interests both of our members and the integrity of the services they provide in such a dedicated fashion to the people of Cambridgeshire.
“However, we fully expect that there will be a detrimental impact on service provision. Whether that will just involve additional travel for patients we are unable to say at the moment.
“We will be meeting senior management of both trusts to ascertain more details about their proposals. Until that happens we will not have the financial figures. The timeline for the approval of the merger is, I understand, April 2016 which is very quick.”
In December, the National Audit Office disclosed that Peterborough and Stamford hospitals' debt for 2014-2015 was £38.5 million, while Hinchingbrooke's deficit for the same period was £11.4m.
In February 2012, Circle took operational control of Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust, but in January last year, it gave up its contract, blaming ‘unprecedented’ increases in A&E attendances and funding cuts.
Unite’s members at the trusts work in a variety of occupations, primarily in pathology, pharmacy and estates.
Notes to editors:
For more information, please contact Unite regional co-ordinating officer Ian Maidlow on 01733 562152 or 07768 931310
Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
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.