500 signatures reached
To: Doncaster & Bassetlaw NHS Trust Chief Executive and Board of Directors
Privatise our NHS by the backdoor? No thank you!
Doncaster Trades Union Council & Doncaster Peoples Assembly have been made aware of significant rumours that Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Trust is creating a wholly owned subsidiary company to take over the employment of NHS staff. NHS trusts across the country are using, or propose to use, wholly owned subsidiary companies to manage the employment of NHS staff. We demand that they stop these proposals; we believe they will prove to be bad for both patients and staff as it will ultimately lead to the privatisation of our NHS. No one voted for this and we will not accept it.
Why is this important?
What is a wholly owned subsidiary company?
The first thing to say is that the Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt, loves them. These companies can be used to reduce costs by cutting pay and increasing workload by rewriting contracts of employment. NHS staff who are placed under a wholly owned subsidiary company effectively have two bosses, but both of them are the same Trust!!
By creating a company to deal with contracts of employment the nasty business of cutting pay and increasing workload does not tarnish the Trust’s image as a caring institution. It allows the Trust to split its responsibilities. On the wards, staff have to give the high standard of care to maintain the reputation of the Trust, while the company that actually employs them demands value-for-money. This is bound to create stress. Trade union organisation is deliberately made more difficult as the company and the Trust separate employment from work, and each can blame the other when staff complain?
Why do the trade unions and health professionals oppose wholly owned subsidiary companies?
Because the argument in favour of them is flawed. The Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt, claims wholly owned subsidiary companies offer NHS trusts ‘tax flexibility’ because they will pay less VAT. This is a preposterous argument. The government can absolve the NHS from paying any VAT should it choose to do so. And as the NHS is publically funded why would any government sanction tax avoidance? Hunt also argues that Trusts have a duty to offer services that are ‘value-for-money’, but this is nothing more than dressing up cuts to the NHS as a noble public duty. Health care is important, its costs need to be found.
Labour and trade union experts say that the new firms are a “back door to privatisation”. Trusts set up wholly owned subsidiary companies behind closed doors in consultation with business advisers. Only when the deed has been done are trade unions and staff informed. A public service run as a business is easier to privatise.
Wholly owned subsidiary companies are a con-trick, sold to staff by Trust managers with the promise that wages and conditions will be protected. However, this is only for a limited time period - the promise expires when the financial condition of the company demands it. New recruits to the company could potentially be employed on lower pay and with worse conditions than existing NHS staff. This leads to a two-tier workforce and causes division. The company has a vested interest in replacing the established NHS staff with the cheaper option – a recipe for bullying and intimidation.
What effect do wholly owned subsidiary companies have on the health service?
When public services are privatised they are no longer accountable to the electorate. We lose our rights over the service and have to accept what we are given. Instead of being treated as a citizen with the right to health care we become customers. The use of wholly owned subsidiary companies destroys the ethos of the NHS by focussing on financial considerations at the expense of our health needs. Staff will certainly become demoralised by the never ending demand to work harder for less, and this is bound to affect the quality of health care negatively.
For these reasons we demand that the Chief Executive of Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Trust rule out any use of a wholly owned subsidiary company, or any similar corporate venture. The NHS belongs to all of us, and it serves all of us. We value it as the best system of health care in the world and we are determined it should remain so.