Suffolk: Private firm Serco reveals plans to cut community health jobs

A PRIVATE firm in charge of NHS services in Suffolk have revealed plans to axe 137 community healthcare jobs, just one month after taking over the contract.

Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, district and community nurses, end of life palliative care and community hospital staff will face cuts as union bosses warn around 200 people could be affected.

In a controversial move, Serco were awarded the contract by NHS Suffolk earlier this year taking over from Suffolk Community Healthcare at the start of last month.

A consultation document, seen by the EADT, was handed to staff on Wednesday, setting out plans to slash the number of jobs by around 17 per cent from a pool of around 795 whole time equivalent posts – held by 1,050 employees.

The cuts are expected to be made by cutting 227 current roles and creating 90 new ones.

However Serco bosses said they are hoping to avoid compulsory redundancy among frontline clinical staff, leave vacant positions empty and offer people the chance to reduce working hours or take a career break.

Criticising the moves UNISON claimed the cuts are to account for the company underbidding on the contract by �10million over a three year period.

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Tim Roberts, regional organiser for the union, said he fears the true impact of the changes may only become apparent when staff have left and “it’s too late”.

“SERCO won the contract by underbidding its competitors by over �10 million,” he told the EADT.

“We warned at the time that they only way they would be able to deliver the contract would by making drastic cuts and that’s exactly what they are now proposing.

“We are deeply worried that it will not be possible to deliver the same level of quality care after staff cuts of this magnitude.

“SERCO states that they can remodel the workforce so it is more efficient. However they have failed to produce any evidence that much of what they are proposing is practical – or even possible.”

Mr Roberts said he expects the cuts to affect both frontline staff and those administrative roles in the back office.

The plans involve the majority of non-clinical jobs centralised at a new care co-ordination centre in Sandy Hill Lane, Ipswich.

Mr Roberts warned for those currently based in Bury St Edmunds or Sudbury for example, it could mean their role is no longer tenable for personal reasons.

Paul Forden, managing director of Serco’s clinical healthcare business, said: “We have always been clear and transparent about our intention to further improve Suffolk’s community healthcare by investing in technology and increasing efficiency so that clinicians can spend more time caring for patients. This commitment has not changed.

“As part of our new approach we will need to change the way our staff work and are now starting consultations about proposals.

“Wherever possible, we would look to redeploy staff into these new roles.

“We would not be making any compulsory redundancies among frontline clinical staff and will do everything we can to minimise the number of non-clinical staff affected by the changes.

“We appreciate that our staff will be anxious about these proposed changes and will be consulting fully with them over the coming months and listening to their views and any concerns they may have. “We will also be liaising closely with the trade unions so that we can work together to ensure the redesigned service will provide the best possible care for our patients.”

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