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8th Dec, 2021

Hospital IT workers strike over planned move

HOSPITAL IT workers in Warwickshire are striking against plans to move them to a wholly owned subsidiary company.

Workers went on strike today and tomorrow, over South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT) plans to move the departments at Warwick and George Eliot Hospitals to the new company called Innovate Healthcare Services. Further action is planned on November 23 and 24.

Trade Union representative UNISON believes the transfer – set to undergo on December 1 – undermines the integrity of the NHS and amounts to privatisation because staff will no longer be employed by the health service.

The union has proposed several alternative positions to the employers, including options that preserve their status in the NHS, even if the staff move to the subco. However, it says the employers have rejected all efforts to find a compromise.

UNISON regional organiser Mike Wilson said: “Like many of their colleagues in healthcare, these staff actively chose to work for the NHS to serve the public. And they’ve done so through the toughest of times during the past few months of the pandemic.

“Now their employers have turned round to say they don’t want them and are forcing them to become a kind of private contractor.

“It’s not too late for these trusts to reconsider their position and work with the union to find a fair compromise.”

Chief executive of South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust Glen Burley said bringing the departments and CT functions together would strengthen the hospitals’ services and allow opportunities not otherwise possible.

He added: “Moving both teams into a wholly owned subsidiary company, Innovate Healthcare Services, provides the best protection from external providers and keeps staff within the NHS family. It will enable us to invest in our teams and infrastructure and we will also look at growing the workforce to offer services to other public sector organisations and creating new income streams, all of which would be re-invested back in to the NHS.

“As a subsidiary company staff play a big part in shaping the future of the company and its services.”

He stressed staff would be transferred on their existing terms and conditions, which were not time limited and ‘indefinitely protected’.

He continued: “Throughout all stages of this process we have worked closely with Union representatives to address their concerns and we are having on-going conversations regarding arrangements with them post transfer. We are therefore disappointed that they have proposed industrial action. We will be working hard to ensure there is minimal impact on services or additional pressure on staff during these periods.”

A spokeswoman for SWFT said the strike was not expected to cause a major impact on services.

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