UNISON calls on Salisbury NHS trust to rethink wholly owned subsidiary plans

UNISON warns that outsourcing hospital staff will create two-tier workforce as trust starts a month of consultations

Photo of entrance to Salisbury district hospital, with ambulance in the driveway

Salisbury NHS trust has become the latest to try to transfer its support staff to a wholly owned subsidiary private company – and UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis has called on it to think again over the plans.

Staff at Salisbury District Hospital learned of the proposals today, in a series of meetings that kicked off a month-long consultation over the plans.

The move will affect 375 health workers including porters, switchboard operators and couriers.

“It is unacceptable to contract out these hard-working members of staff who have chosen to be part of the NHS team,” warned Mr Prentis.

The trust was planning on spending £300,000 on consultants this spring to advise it on setting up a wholly owned subsidiary, a Freedom of Information request from UNISON revealed in April.

“If the trust goes ahead with these plans, it will create a two-tier workforce where new staff are likely to be far worse off in terms of their pay and pensions,” said Mr Prentis.

“The trust needs to find a different way of saving money that won’t have such a negative impact on patients, services and staff.”

Staff at the hospital were in the news this year, receiving praise for their work dealing with novichok incidents. Home secretary Sajid Javid thanked them for their “tireless professionalism and for the dedicated way they are providing it”.

UNISON is running a national campaign on the trend toward NHS trusts setting up wholly owned subsidiary companies in England.

It points out that a legal loophole means that, because the subsidiaries are private companies rather than public bodies, trusts could reduce their VAT payments and cut the pay and pensions of any new staff.

The health workers transferred in similar exercises elsewhere in England tend to be the lowest-paid staff within the NHS – including porters and cleaners.

UNISON campaign: Wholly owned subsidiaries in the NHS

DOWNLOAD a UNISON briefing on the issue (June 2018)

Related story: ‘Think again’ UNISON tells North East trust over subco plans (29 August 2018)

Related story: Bolton hospital workers’ pay ballot opens (29 August 2018)