‘Back office’ jobs on the line as Morecambe Bay health trust looks to save cash

Protestors at a recent health lobby about privatisation
Protestors at a recent health lobby about privatisation
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Hundreds of jobs are under threat at Morecambe Bay’s health trust as part of a review of “back office” staff.

The cost cutting proposals include outsourcing or privatising departments, the chairman of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has warned.

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary

Pearse Butler said options would be developed over the next few months as part of the trust’s Transformation and Sustainability Plans.

The “back office” departments include finance, procurement, HR, payroll and estates and facilities, which includes cleaning and maintenance.

Union bosses have condemned the “damaging plans” which are a “direct consequence of systematic underfunding” and have warned that patient care will be affected.

David Atkinson from UNISON said proposals to create a single health organisation in the Morecambe Bay area to reduce costs are “about making cuts” not improving patient care.

“...what part of our hospitals will be sold off next?”

Coun Colin Hartley

In a letter to governors, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) chairman Pearse Butler said discussions about “back office/corporate support functions” were ongoing, with the potential to outsource many roles.

He said: “The discussions we are having across the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) and within Morecambe Bay relate to all our back office/corporate support functions.

“We have to do a piece of work on reducing our costs in these functions, indeed that is part of the motivation for our aim to create a single organisation in the bay, ie reduce overhead costs to a minimum.

“We are looking at all ‘back office’ functions – finance, procurement, HR, IM&T, payroll, estates and facilities etc to ensure they are being delivered at the optimum level of efficiency. This will include looking at shared services and will, of course, look at whether outsourcing may be a part of this.”

UHMBT Chairman Pearse Butler

UHMBT Chairman Pearse Butler

Mr Butler said the options, which include looking at grouping services together, and whether services should be provided in house or be outsourced, would be developed over the coming months.

He said there were no specific proposals as yet, but discussions were already taken place and the trust was further challenged by NHS England and NHS Improvement via the STP review process, to move discussions on.

He added: “It will be impossible to successfully argue for additional funds for the Bay if we do not look at the solutions the rest of the NHS is considering on reducing overhead costs.”

Mr Atkinson, UNISON’s North West regional organiser said: “The potential changes are not about improving services for patients – they are about making cuts. The government is requiring the NHS to make £22bn worth of ‘savings’, and these plans in Morecambe Bay are a result of the pressure to reduce costs.

“The Trust is considering damaging plans as a direct consequence of systemic underfunding.

“Medical staff need the backing of the whole NHS team to be able to concentrate on doing their job. Skimping on functions like for example, cleaning, is a false economy as it leads to increased levels of infections. Cuts to the so-called ‘back-office’ do impact on patient care.

“We do not want private companies to have a greater role in the provision of our health services. We want our health service to be focussed on meeting patient need, not on making profits.”

“There have been no specific proposals as yet from the Trust.

“It is important that they consult properly with the public, staff and trade unions as well as liaising with colleagues from other organisations in the Lancashire and South Cumbria Sustainability and Transformation Plan footprint.

“We can’t allow our NHS to be dismantled in a rush to make savings.”

Governor Colin Hartley said: “Some people might argue ‘this is only the back office function – why does it matter?’

“Well, this sell off needs to be taken in context with the earlier privatisation and other outsourcing elsewhere in the NHS where services are being sold off to the private sector who will see their profits rise and share holders benefit from money that should be going into patient care.

“If the sell off of UHMBT’s “back office” functions goes ahead what part of our hospitals will be sold off next?”