Union fears proposals by hospital trust will lead to privatisation of services

UNION chiefs fear proposals that could see private firms running hospital services could spell the start of ‘privatisation by stealth’.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT), which runs the Conquest and Eastbourne DGH, is looking at potentially outsourcing certain areas including admin support, corporate functions and commercial services, meaning outside companies could be responsible for overseeing these services.

The decision was made at a trust board meeting earlier this month and the trust said the review was also in a bid to improve efficiency.

But the GMB union said it will staunchly oppose privatisation of clinical and other provisions, such as cleaning and maintenance at hospitals within the trust.

Gary Palmer, GMB organiser, said: “This is no more than the beginning of privatisation by stealth by chief executive Darren Grayson and an expensive one at that as no doubt the trust will look to engage external consultants to carry out this disgraceful process.

“Initially clinical areas such as pathology, pharmacy and imagining are to undergo market testing and the trust has further indicated they do not rule out any clinical areas being exempt from being similarly scrutinised.

“In soft facilities areas such as catering, patient feeding, linen, estates and cleaning the news is equally disturbing as it was announced these and all other facility managed services can expect to be reviewed under this process.”

Simon Purkiss, ESHT spokesman, said: “The trust, like all NHS organisations, needs to be as efficient as possible to ensure it provides best value for money for the taxpayer.

“The board agreed to develop a market testing strategy for all support services which includes corporate functions, admin support and commercial services as well as elements of our clinical support services.

“An external partner, called Capita, has been appointed to help develop this strategy and analyse the efficiency of all our support services.

“It will produce a report for the board to consider in September in relation to what services the trust should consider market testing after taking into account the quality, performance and efficiency requirements. As yet no decisions have been made.”