Mental health trust drops plans to transfer hundreds of staff to new company

Sandwell Park. Picture by FRANK REID
Sandwell Park. Picture by FRANK REID

A mental health trust that provides services in Hartlepool has decided against plans to transfer hundreds of non-clinical staff to a private subsidiary company.

The Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Sandwell Park in Lancaster Road, and Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough, was considering transferring 500 staff, including maintenance workers, porters, housekeepers and caterers, to TEWV Estates and Facilities Management Ltd.

It provoked a backlash from unions which raised concerns it was an ‘abuse of public finances’ and feared it could lead to cutting terms and conditions or the reduction in service provision.

The GMB also said it would remove staff from the NHS National Pay Bargaining Agreement, which most of the staff have worked under for 20 years or more.

A business plan was set to go before the trust board later this month.

But the trust’s board of directors has decided against the transfer.

The subsidiary, TEWV Estates and Facilities Management Ltd, was set up in late 2017 to provide estates and facilities management services at Roseberry Park if needed, which happened in June.

Colin Martin, chief executive of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: “At that time the Trust also recognised the potential for the company to expand into other areas of estates and facilities management.

“These are important services and the board asked for further work to be undertaken to explore options.

“The decision not to proceed was made following an initial review of a draft business case.

“It was clear to board members that the costs of operating a subsidiary company with the proposed expanded scope would outweigh the potential benefits.

“The business case will therefore not be presented to the board at the end of September as originally planned.”

The union Union has welcomed the decision. Regional secretary Clare Williams said: “This is a fantastic victory for us, and for the dedicated NHS staff who have been tangled up in the issue.

“We thank local Labour MPs for their support during this campaign.

“This decision will allow the trust to retain experienced workers.

“They now have the assurance that all parts of the service are valued equally, working as one team to provide the best possible care for patients.”

Ivor Meek, a porter with the trust, said: “When I heard the news I was over the moon. I’m absolutely made up with the decision.

“I was really worried about my pay and terms and conditions if I went over to the new company.

“I’m so grateful for the support of UNISON who have been brilliant all the way through.”