Suffolk: Outraged employees raise concerns over Serco consultation into community health job cuts
PUBLISHED: 12:12 20 November 2012 | UPDATED: 16:28 20 November 2012
PRESSURE is today mounting on a private firm to publicly consult on proposals – branded a “risk to patients” by sources – to axe 137 community healthcare posts.
A Serco spokeswoman said: “This is a meaningful consultation being carried out with employees and their representatives.
“It has only recently started and we have been listening to staff and are making revised proposals based on that feedback, which has been very constructive.
“Since the tender process began a year ago, we have consulted with a wide range of stakeholders and partner organisations, including CCGs, councils, health and social care providers across Suffolk, patient groups, hospices, charities and voluntary organisations. We have listened to their opinions and used their feedback to help us test and develop the proposed model.
“To suggest that we have asked community nurses not to visit dying patients is absolutely untrue.
“We would like to reassure our patients and their families that it is our absolute intention to work more closely with hospices and other palliative care providers so that we can further improve end of life care for Suffolk’s patients.”
A spokeswoman for their commissioners, NHS Suffolk, told The Star part of the process to choose new providers of community services in Suffolk required a commitment to “continue to deliver current services to, at least, the continuing level of care and performance, whilst developing and implementing the required integrated model of care as per the new service specifications”.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “This means Serco should provide the same range of community services that were provided by Suffolk Community Healthcare prior to transfer.
“The changes Serco is consulting with its staff on currently, are about how staff will work differently in future to deliver the full range of community services. Service levels are not being decreased, nor are services being reduced, but they do need to be delivered more efficiently and effectively.”
Concerned Serco employees have contacted The Star outraged at suggestions the axe will fall on more than 30 community nurses, nine specialist and district nurses, 18 general health worker posts and eight physiotherapists.
The proposals, criticised by union bosses, come less than two months after the private firm took over the multi-million pound contract.
One employee claimed community nurses have been advised not to visit dying patients, though Serco deny the claim.
Meanwhile Serco’s consultation document, seen by The Star, reveals proposals to proposals to change rehabilitation care in community hospitals to “five day packages” with the option to extend that beyond five days where there is a clear patient need.
Another source claimed patient care was “going to be compromised” and questioned why the consultation was not being held in public.He said: “This consultation should be held in public because, I believe, it is not just about restructuring staff but also about fundamental changes to patient care.
“In their own consultation document Serco refers to a ‘new model of care’ and a ‘new type of community services’.
“Drastic reductions in clinical staff and rehabilitation pathways are all about patient care.”
One worried member of staff questioned Serco’s claim that new technology will benefit patients.
“Where is the evidence?” the source said. “In Cornwall the company were criticised by the Care Quality Commission for not having ‘enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet people’s needs’. They could be doing the same all over again in Suffolk.”
Marion Fairman-Smith, chair of patient group Suffolk LInk, said she has been contacted by members concerned at the proposals. She said: “One of the things that really concerns us is that patients will be affected, especially older patients.
“We see this as dramatic change in patient care and according to the guidelines we believe there should be a public consultation on the matter and the current consultation is really unacceptable.”
Chair of Suffolk’s Health Scrutiny Committee, Dr Alan Murray echoed the view of Suffolk LInk.
He added: “I feel there ought to be a full public consultation. I will be consulting with Serco’s commissioners, NHS Suffolk, to arrange an urgent meeting regarding this.”
n What do you think about the consultation? Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org