Almost 1,800 staff at the Barts Health NHS Trust are to benefit from NHS pay, terms and conditions after a successful campaign by trade unions and their members. The cleaners, porters, security guards and domestic staff, grouped together as “soft facilities management”, at the trust’s hospitals are currently employed by Serco, but from 1 May 2023 they will be transferred across to join the existing 17,000 Barts Health staff as NHS employees under Agenda for Change (AfC) conditions. 

Serco won the contract in a competitive tender in 2017, but has served notice that it will terminate early, at the end of April 2023. Following this announcement, the trust and trade unions explored alternative options to outsourcing. The Board agreed to pursue one that was both “financially advantageous but would also improve the quality of service, be flexible in response to demand, and maximise engagement with staff.”

UNISON regional organiser Pam Okuns-Edokpayi said​: “This is a fantastic result for a group of staff who ​fully deserve to be fully part of the NHS again. ​UNISON is proud of the deal we negotiated, ​but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our members ​at Barts. Thanks to them, we’re the largest and most effective union in the NHS.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite has struck a landmark agreement with one of the UK’s largest NHS trusts to end the two-tier workforce. Unite members and their representatives have shown impressive determination and resilience to reach this negotiated settlement. The workers are exposed to the same risks as NHS-employed staff, so it’s only right for them to be treated equally and brought back into NHS employment.”

Barts is not the first to bring such services back in house. In June 2021, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust brought cleaning, catering and portering staff back in house, rather than retain its outsourced contract with Mitie.

And in January 2020, Imperial College Healthcare Trust decided to bring almost 1,000 catering and cleaning staff back onto the NHS payroll from an outsourced contract with Sodexo. Imperial increased the staffs’ pay after they came back in-house. The decision to bring staff back in-house followed industrial action by staff.

The three other London hospital trusts where these services are provided in-house are Whittington Health Trust, Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust.


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