Ipswich and Colchester hospitals has announced plans to outsource some hospitality services in a move the union says will affect hundreds of workers. 

UNISON has criticised the decision by  East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT)to review its housekeeping, cleaning, portering and security services across both hospitals and its community sites from next year. 

Nick Hulme, chief executive of ESNEFT, assured workers that they would not lose their jobs, and this decision was taken to ensure that the trust could manage their facilities. 

In a message to staff, Mr Hulme said the reason for the review was because Ipswich Hospital's partnership with OCS - a soft facilities management provider - ends in April 2025.

The decision is "to implement a single approach and outsource the services across Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals and our community sites from April 2025".

"It was clear that a fully outsourced model will provide benefits in all these areas and will help us to provide the best service to all those who use our Trust," he added.

East Anglian Daily Times: Chief Executive of ESNEFT assures staff that they would not lose their jobsChief Executive of ESNEFT assures staff that they would not lose their jobs (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown, Newsquest)

East Anglian Daily Times: UNISON, the UK's biggest service union is concerned about this announcementUNISON, the UK's biggest service union is concerned about this announcement (Image: Newsquest)

The next step will include a procurement process over the next 12 months. 

A full business case will be considered at the trust's board in autumn 2024.

Mr Hulme said: "We know that this may be an anxious time for you, but we want to reassure you this decision has not been taken lightly and has not, in any way, been based on the performance of our teams who we value so highly. There are so many factors that helped us to reach this decision and we firmly believe that this option will be the best for our patients and the trust." 

UNISON Eastern head of health Caroline Hennessy said: “Staff are up in arms after this bombshell has been dropped on them. 

“The trust should have used the end of the OCS contract to bring all facilities management back in house, where staff are treated better and able to provide higher-quality services to patients. Instead workers are being thrown to the wolves so that some private company can milk some cash out of the health service.

“This isn’t about improving quality, it’s about saving a few quid. Nick Hulme and the board are in for a shock if they think staff will take this attack lying down.”

The directors of estates and facilities will hold a meeting with staff next week. 

An ESNEFT spokesperson said: “Our most important priority is to reassure all our colleagues working in these services that their employment and terms and conditions are protected through the TUPE legislation process Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006), which preserves the employment rights and terms and conditions of staff transferring between organisations.

“The next steps are to start the procurement process that will take place over the next 12 months, to find the right organisation to provide the services we need. This will enable us to put together a Full Business Case (FBC) that will be considered by our Trust Board in Autumn 2024. During this time, we will continue to involve all our staff and keep everyone updated with what is going on."