Health shake-up could cost jobs

A MASSIVE shake-up of healthcare in Essex could have a “huge impact” on jobs, a union has warned.Essex Strategic Health Authority (SHA) wants to axe the existing 13 primary care trusts that serve Essex and merge them into two primary care organisations.

A MASSIVE shake-up of healthcare in Essex could have a “huge impact” on jobs, a union has warned.

Essex Strategic Health Authority (SHA) wants to axe the existing 13 primary care trusts that serve Essex and merge them into two primary care organisations.

But public services union Unison claimed last night the move would leave many jobs at risk.

Regional officer Ann Glover also claimed the proposed merger was part of the “slow but steady increase in privatisation of the NHS”.


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“It's a difficult time for all employees of PCTs because the future is not so clear. It looks as though things are going to come full circle.

“Potentially there could be a huge impact on jobs. There's only one chief executive and senior managers will definitely be reduced.

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“There'll probably be economies of scale with regard to administrative staff etcetera and there's likely to be many more people going out to the private sector.”

The new primary care organisations (PCO) would follow the same boundaries as the former North Essex and South Essex Health Authorities which were abolished five years ago.

The proposed reorganisation is part of the Government's drive to create a “patient-led NHS”, in which people have more choice over what sort of healthcare they receive and where they get it.

The SHA considers two large PCOs would benefit from economies of scale and increased financial power when buying health and management or administrative services.

Disadvantages include lack of identity with the diverse communities they would serve, with deprived areas in greater need being lost in a bigger organisation.

Ms Glover said the commissioning role of the new organisations would lead to more healthcare being provided by private or non-profit-making groups, as has already happened in the area of learning disabilities.

She said private companies would be able to “cherry pick” which services they provide.

“I honestly don't think people realise what's happening because it's been sugar-coated.”

As far as job losses within existing PCTs was concerned, Ms Glover said: “The realisation of the potential problem hasn't really hit home, other than to senior managers and trade union activists.”

She added: “There's not one person in the whole of East Anglia who won't be affected.”

Essex SHA director of primary care and partnerships Lorraine Cabel said: “We must grasp this opportunity to get the best for our local population. We are proposing radical change to deliver powerful strategic commissioning organisations balanced with strong local relationships working closely with GPs, patients and local partners.”

She said the change would affect administrative and management posts, but not clinical staff.

The SHA is putting in place mechanisms for those people that may be affected by the changes.

Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns, who is Shadow Health Minister, said: “I certainly believe that there should be a rationalisation of the PCTs because they're too small and so there's too much bureaucracy.

“I do think though that going to two PCTs in the county is over ambitious and not in the best interests of everybody because they'd be too large and remote from the communities they serve.”

He said he favoured the option was merging into five PCOs covering mid, north east, west, south east and south west Essex.

Essex SHA is due to submit its PCT merger recommendations to the Department of Health today. The Minister's response is due in December and then there will be three months' formal consultation.

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