Many campaigners remember the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Hospital.  It was claimed far and wide as the answer to turning around a hospital which had posed problems for years.

But after awards were handed out the truth emerged.  The whole sage was a total failure, and the many claims were bogus. The whole exercise was rigged and better NHS solutions were not properly considered.

But when the privatisation model was still being pushed, George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton also tried to go down that route.

Despite confronting a dishonest and intransigent management, the trade unions and campaigners once more won the day, and the whole deal fell through; other solutions were found. You would have thought someone would learn – but no.

As the peak of the pandemic appeared to recede, management at George Eliot along with partners in South Warwickshire were back on the privatisation/outsourcing bandwagon in April this year, this time trying to hive off IT staff into a “wholly-owned subsidiary”.

Yet again we have management trying to transfer staff out of the NHS into some dodgy subco so the Trust can get tax advantages.  Many thought we had seen the end of that saga too.  Much-vaunted schemes at Bradford and Frimley were both successfully resisted by the trade unions despite massive pressures from NHS management.

Yet again we have management refusing to abide by their legal duties under the NHS Constitution.  They refuse to consult over plans or to have any meaningful discussions over what exactly the problem is that having a subco will solve.  The decision is made, and staff are then ‘consulted’ only over the details of the transfers.

With such an appalling approach by management the subco plans have now had to be confronted by industrial action.  Staff resent being told they will be better off outside the NHS, that they are no longer part of the team – not like doctors or nurses.

IT staff at George Eliot Hospital and South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) in Warwick have staged a 2-day strike against plans to transfer them on December 1 against their will and without consultation to Innovate Healthcare Services, a new private subsidiary company set up by the trusts.

George Eliot and SWFT share a chief Executive, Glen Burley, who somehow also manages to hold the CEO job at Wye Valley NHS Trust – and is making no concessions as he pushed forward with the project, claiming that the new wholly owned subsidiary would provide “protection from external providers” and somehow “keep staff within the NHS family.”

However even a Warwick Tory councillor has warned that SWFT is being unfair to those staff who have ‘proudly and loyally’ worked for the health service for years, and this could lead to ‘privatisation of part of the NHS by the backdoor’.

Mr Burley also claims that “Throughout all stages of this process we have worked closely with Union representatives to address their concerns and we are having on-going conversations regarding arrangements with them post transfer.”

UNISON regional organiser Mike Wilson refutes this, insisting that the only offer to negotiate has been on the TUPE transfer of staff out of the NHS, not on the issue of whether or not the company should be set up.

“Like many of their colleagues in healthcare, these staff actively chose to work for the NHS to serve the public. And they’ve done so through the toughest of times during the past few months of the pandemic.

“Now their employers have turned round to say they don’t want them and are forcing them to become a kind of private contractor.”

One staff member told the Coventry Telegraph: “We started work in the NHS, and want to continue this. People are just so disappointed, we are not being listened to. We do not want to work for this private company – we want to stay in the NHS, we are proud to be in the NHS.”

Further action is planned on November 23 and 24.


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