Private healthcare giant Serco has announced proposals to cut 137 posts at Suffolk Community Healthcare just a month after taking over its management.
Serco took over Suffolk Community Healthcare in October 2012. In a proposed workforce structure plan, issued to staff on 16 November, the company revealed it wanted a 17% reduction in staff.
The cuts will be made in band 3 health support workers, band 5 community nurses and band 6 specialist nurses and district nurses.
The company won the tender to run the services in July, in partnership with South Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust and a social enterprise called Community Dental Services. It has previously stated that it wants to make greater use of technology and improve efficiency as part of its care model.
However, unions has condemned the staff reduction plans and said it will lead to patients’ suffering as a result.
Tim Roberts, Unison regional organiser, said: “There is no way that Suffolk Community Healthcare can lose so many key professionals and maintain current services.
“Serco underbid the NHS trust that was previously managing the organisation by £10m and it’s clear they now want to save that money by cutting the workforce.
“These job losses will have massive impact on health services in Suffolk and we fear that patients will suffer.”
But 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 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.”
He said the company would not be making any compulsory redundancies among frontline clinical staff.
Tracy Dowling, NHS Suffolk’s director of strategic commissioning, said: “This will result in a more streamlined and efficient community health service and will deliver benefits for the patient and better value for the taxpayer.
“We recognise these changes will affect some staff and that it is undoubtedly a difficult and worrying time for them.”
She added: “We will be working with Serco and its partners to ensure this process of consultation is carried out thoroughly and that the opinions of staff are responded to during the consultation process.”