Suffolk: Serco looks set to axe more than 30 community nurses just two months into new contract

MORE than 30 community nurses look set to be axed by a private firm less than two months after it took over the multi-million pound NHS contract to run Suffolk’s community health services, it emerged last night.

Union officials claim Serco, which now runs Suffolk Community Healthcare, is also looking to shed nine specialist and district nurse positions, 18 general health worker posts and eight physiotherapists.

Unison said such cuts would have a “massive impact” on health services in Suffolk, and it feared patients would suffer.

Regional organiser Tim Roberts said the “proposed workforce structures” were distributed to all staff on Friday. Serco had already announced plans to reduce jobs, but this was the first detail of where the axe could fall.

Serco said last night it had been “clear and transparent” in its intention to invest in technology and increase efficiency – and argued it can improve community healthcare in the process.

But Mr Roberts said: “There is no way that Suffolk Community Healthcare can lose so many key professionals and maintain current services.

“We believe Serco underbid the NHS trust that was previously managing the organisation by �10million and it is clear they now want to save that money by cutting the workforce.

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“These job losses will have massive impact on health services in Suffolk and we fear that patients will suffer. Patients are clearly going to have to wait longer to see a health professional and vulnerable people are not going to receive the same quality service that is available now.

“Unison warned that NHS Suffolk’s decision to award the contract to the cheapest bidder was a mistake but the scale of the proposed job losses are even worse than we feared.”

Commenting on the consultation, 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 we have started consultations about proposals that would mean that there would be an overall reduction of 137 posts at Suffolk Community Healthcare. This will be made up by a reduction of 227 current roles and the creation of 90 new ones. 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. This means that we will not fill vacant positions and we will also offer people opportunities to work flexibly, reduce working hours or take a career break.”

Unison said the number of general health workers would reduce by 20%, from 93.5 to 75. It said physiotherapists would drop 17% from 50.5 to 42; community nurses by 15% from 210 to 179; and specialist and district nurses by 13% from 65 to 56.5.