Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Bring back in-house hospital services across UK, says UNISON

Press Release: Tuesday 21 October 2008

UNISON, the UK's largest health union, is today calling on the Government to follow the example set by Scotland and bring hospital soft services back in house. The Scottish Government has announced that all cleaning, catering and clinically related soft facilities management services in the country's clinical premises are to be exempt from contracting out in future schemes, whether funded through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) or not.

A letter from the Scottish Government to Hospital Chief Executives across Scotland says: "The provision of soft facilities management services such as cleaning and catering play a key role in the delivery of clinical services in NHS Scotland. The Scottish Government believes that NHS Scotland should therefore be responsible for the direct delivery of these services wherever possible".

Wales has recently announced something similar and in NI the majority, if not all services, have been retained in-house.

Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said: "The rest of the UK is pointing the way towards providing quality in-house services such as cleaning, catering and portering. It's time that the government realized that these staff need to feel part of the NHS team.

"UNISON has consistently called for hospital cleaners to be under the direct control of ward staff, to fight infections such as MRSA and C difficile and boost patient and staff confidence.

"Only last week the Healthcare Commission released performance figures which criticised hospital cleaning standards across England. We owe it to patients and staff to raise standards across the country. The answer is a sharper focus on cleaning services that are a fully funded part of the NHS - not contracted out to private firms. An increase in the number of cleaners would help to speed up the rate of improvement."

In Scotland, UNISON welcomed the announcement, but said its campaign to bring back in-house existing PFI contractors would continue.

John Gallacher, UNISONScotland's Health Group Secretary said "UNISON welcomes this announcement by the Cabinet Secretary. The different approach to in-house provision in Scotland has meant staff work more as a team. This announcement means that future developments should continue that team approach.

"However we will be continuing our campaign to bring the remaining outsourced services in our large PFI hospitals back in-house as soon as they can be. Of course we would prefer if future developments were fully publicly funded and serviced rather than via PFI, PPP or the Scottish Futures Trust."

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