Unions to protest at Doncaster hospital over jobs fear

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Worried union officials are preparing to protest over proposals to outsource some of the jobs at Doncaster's hospital's trust.

The GMB, which represents NHS workers, is planning a demonstration outside Doncaster Royal Infirmary on Monday, April 30, at the same time as they say the trust’s board meet to discuss a feasibility study which if put into action will mean services at the Trust will be transferred to a wholly owned subsidiary.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

The union says it believes that the trust wants to create a new company and run NHS services from it, to avoid paying VAT and opt out of national agreements on pay terms and conditions. They say workers could be affected by this.

GMB NHS officer, Stacey Booth, said: “Wholly owned subsidiaries are bad for staff, bad for patients and bad for the NHS. While bosses keep saying there will be no changes to terms and conditions, where it’s happened elsewhere those promises gave came to nothing.”

“We’ve seen new staff paid less than existing ones, which puts everyone under pressure. It’s bad for new starters and bad for staff who know they can be replaced by cheaper workers.”

“Employers might say ‘but the new company will still be owned by the NHS’ then why do it in the first place?”

“GMB Union is fighting against plans to privatise the NHS by the back door. We want to keep our NHS in the NHS and to ensure that staff pay, terms and conditions are protected.”

“We have not made any decisions or expressed any preferences in regards to taking a Wholly Owned Subsidiary forward at this time. If this were to change, we would communicate any proposals well in advance.”

A spokesperson at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals said no decisions have been taken on the matter and no preferences expressed either.

They added: “We always explore all options to aid us in the delivery of high quality patient care and making best use of public money.

“We have not made any decisions or expressed any preferences in regards to taking a Wholly Owned Subsidiary forward at this time. If this were to change, we would communicate any proposals well in advance.”

A statement placed the the trust's website stated: "Over the past number of weeks and months, local residents may have heard about ‘Wholly Owned Subsidiaries’ (WOS) within the NHS and specifically at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals.

"In short, a WOS is an organisation set-up externally to an NHS Foundation Trust, but still within the Trusts ownership. In doing this, Trusts have reported flexibility around terms and conditions, greater income generation, wider prospects in areas like apprenticeships, opportunities around procurement and tendering, as well as being able to reduce tax costs.

"A number of NHS trusts are currently exploring this model, while some have already adopted this way of working such as Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and locally at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

"At the Trust, we are focused upon delivering the best patient care, whilst also providing value for money, and as such we would always explore options which may help us to achieve these goals, including the potential benefits of WOS seen within the public sector.

"To this end, DBTH has undertaken a feasibility study regarding WOS focused upon the practicalities of a transfer of the services which have been part of other examples of WOS.

"In March, a discussion was held by DBTH directors on the theory, opportunities and risks of setting up a WOS. Union representatives were invited to attend and engaged in this discussion, expressing their views on this matter.

"As an exploratory session, the organisation’s position remains unchanged and no decisions have been made regarding taking a WOS forward and no preferences expressed.

"If the Trust’s position changes in the future, this would be communicated well in advance with any proposals requiring formal talks with the organisation’s Board of Directors, Council of Governors and staff, as well as union representatives."