The majority of the public (54%) think transferring NHS staff to private companies is unacceptable, according to a UNISON/ComRes poll published today (Monday).
The findings also highlight how half (50%) of those polled fear the efficiency of the NHS could be undermined as a direct result of non-medical health employee – including cleaners, porters and catering workers – being outsourced.
There has been an increasing trend to transfer staff over to firms outside the NHS, which means they have separate managers as well as different ways of working to those directly employed by the health service.
The findings come amid concerns about the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS and show the public recognises the importance of team-working in the NHS, says UNISON.
The survey of more than 2,000 people found that just a third (34%) believe transferring NHS staff over to work for private companies is acceptable.
There is concern that this growing country-wide trend could have a negative impact on NHS efficiency, safety, cleanliness, food quality and employment satisfaction for staff.
The study found the vast majority (78%) of people believe non-medical employees are just as important to the health service as staff who deliver treatment such as doctors, nurses and midwives.
More than three in five (63%) say it’s unfair that the transfer of staff can affect the pay and conditions of workers, meaning they are in a worse position than those in equivalent roles still employed in the NHS.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s simply unfair. Dedicated hospital staff doing exactly the same roles shouldn’t miss out on nationally agreed pay deals, but more and more trusts are going down this route.
“Some are losing four-figure sums from their pay packets, which is causing financial hardship for the cleaners, caterers, porters and security staff who keep the NHS running.
“The health service is already struggling for staff and the two-tier system being created means more people will leave, with a direct impact on the quality of patient care.
“The next government has to call a halt to the creeping privatisation, which is tearing at the fabric of our precious NHS, and return all contracts back in house.”
The figures are published on the day (Monday) that staff had been due to strike at hospitals run by Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey and South Buckinghamshire.
The dispute by employees including porters, caterers and estates workers belonging to UNISON is over fears their jobs will be privatised. Staff working for the Frimley trust that runs three hospitals – Frimley Park, Heatherwood and Wexham Park – had voted overwhelmingly to take action over changes to their contracts following a move to a subsidiary company.
But following last-minute talks, UNISON called off the first round of strike action late last night (Sunday) as the trust agreed not to continue with plans to create a wholly owned subsidiary company, while other options are pursued.
Notes to editors:
– The poll was carried out by ComRes who surveyed 2,030 British adults in 2019 between 1 and 3 November. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comresglobal.com
– UNISON is supporting hundreds of support workers countrywide over issues of fair pay and privatisation. These include
Compass – a total of 300 hospital support staff working for Compass in St Helens and Blackpool have taken 12 day’s strike action to date, with two more planned this month. They are paid around £1,000 less per year than colleagues who do the same jobs but are employed directly by the NHS.
One anonymous Compass worker said: “We give one hundred and fifty per cent every day. But where we get paid £8.21 an hour for weekends and bank holidays, NHS staff get £18 an hour. This is just not fair. We’re doing the same work and we deserve the same pay.”
Mitie – cleaners, cooks and porters at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS trust are employed by Mitie on an £8.21 per hour rate under a contract with the NHS. UNISON is currently balloting on a £9.30 per hour pay offer.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.