Private health company Serco sacks Suffolk nurses – one month after winning contract

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Posted 03/11/2012

A private firm which has taken over part of NHS services in Suffolk has revealed plans to sack 137 community healthcare workers, just a month after taking over the contract. The sackings take place even though the company, Serco, gave assurances before winning the contract that there would be no significant changes. The jobs include those of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, district and community nurses and end of life palliative care and community hospital staff.

Serco took over from Suffolk Community Healthcare at the start of last month. But well before the contract was awarded many voices were raised against the proposal, including that of Sandra Patton, head of medical negligence at Ashtons Legal.

The company is a huge multi-national with interests well beyond healthcare. They provide security, they run prison vans, provide IT services to schools and manage property. The cuts are expected to be made by cutting 227 current roles and creating 90 new ones. Serco bosses claimed they hoped to avoid compulsory redundancy among frontline clinical staff.

“It was always madness to award the contract to Serco,” claims Sandra Patton. “Their record is there for everyone to see. We warned that they would have to make cuts to make money, and a month later we are sadly proved right. This is not a company whose primary interest is in health of any sort, let alone Suffolk people’s health. They will go wherever they can make money out of fat Government contracts, and what they are required to do for their money seems almost incidental. Serco under-bid the competition by £10 million, which should have rung bells at Suffolk NHS who awarded them the contract. But it seems all they wanted to do was save money and get shot of the responsibility.

One of the tried and tested means of making money out of such contracts of course is immediately to sack staff and so reduce costs. But in this case the staff sacked are nurses. No doubt Serco will glibly claim that the service they provide will be even better, however few nurses they employ. Meanwhile NHS Suffolk will no doubt wring their hands and claim they acted for the best. But it is clear that their best was nowhere near good enough if it put the health of Suffolk people at risk. The plans involve the majority of non-clinical jobs, centralized at a new ‘care co-ordination centre’ in Sandy Hill Lane, Ipswich.”


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