A victory against the increasing break-up of NHS services has been chalked up as bosses at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust have suspended plans to transfer workers to a wholly owned subsidiary (WOS) designed to avoid paying tax.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 12 March) that the trust’s decision was the culmination of a two-year campaign by staff, including industrial action, against increasing NHS fragmentation.

About 1,000 estates’ management, equipment maintenance, catering, portering, procurement and security staff at Frimley Park Hospital, Camberley; Wexham Park Hospital, Slough; and Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot would have been affected.

This decision not to proceed with the WOS comes as the role of privatisation in the NHS is under renewed focus with the scathing Public Accounts Committee report this week over the £37 billion in government contacts to the private sector-led ‘test and trace’ system that has failed to live up to the prime minister’s boast that it would be ‘world beating’.

Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar said: “This is a great victory for all those fed-up with the continuing fragmentation of NHS services and a sterling tribute to the solidarity the workers at the trust have shown over two years of vigorous campaigning.

“We warmly welcome the decision of the trust’s board of directors, given that the last year has shown what a unified and hardworking NHS can achieve in the face of a global pandemic. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the trust’s management in the future.

“Our members had voted overwhelmingly in 2019 that they have no wish to be employed by a WOS designed to avoid paying tax. They were also concerned that their pay and employment conditions would be seriously eroded by such a plan.

“Unite continues to be strongly against the formation of these entities in England, which, we believe, could lead to a Pandora’s box of Carillion-type meltdowns – with knock-on effects for patient services and jobs.” 

The Frimley trust provides NHS hospital services for about 900,000 people across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and south Buckinghamshire. Unite has 220 members at the trust.

Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.