UNISON claims staff at L&D Hospital facing 'decade of misery' over outsourcing

Staff at Luton & Dunstable Hospital could be faced with a ‘decade of misery’ if outsourcing continues, a union has warned.

UNISON is calling for domestic, catering and cleaning services to be brought back in-house once outside firm Engie’s contract ends in 2020.

Luton & Dunstable Hospital

Luton & Dunstable Hospital

Instead, hospital chiefs are offering a 10-year contract for the services, while threatening to outsource a number of employees currently working directly for the NHS.

The union claims the contract will also put the L&D at odds with the in-house domestic and catering services based at Bedford Hospital as the two trusts are expected to merge next year.

Managers at Bedford have pledged not to explore outsourcing for at least the next year.

Unions have been pushing for the outsourced domestic and catering services at L&D to be brought back in-house, citing the creation of a three-tier workforce, with different sets of pay and conditions for staff transferred from the NHS and those employed by Engie at different times since it won the contract in 2015.

UNISON regional organiser Winston Dorsett said: “Managers at the L&D are shrugging off the concerns of the public and staff, ploughing on with a failed outsourcing model without even considering the sensible option to bring services back in-house.

“Private firms’ main interest is profit not public service. Any new contractor will try to drive down wages and cut corners to make more money out of the NHS. These plans will unleash a decade of misery on staff and patients, with worse pay, worse conditions and, ultimately, a worse hospital.”

In response to these criticisms, a L&D spokesman said the new contract would provide security and certainty over services.

David Carter, L&D chief executive, said: “We have listened to feedback on the existing arrangements and we believe that a 10-year contract will allow contractors the best opportunity to partner with the trust to ensure long-term investment in their staff and the service they provide to the hospital.

“Our specification will set out clear expectations for contractors to act as good employers with high standards of training and development opportunities for their staff.

“We hugely value the service provided by those who staff our cleaning and catering service and the contribution they make to the experience of all our patients.”