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Service takeovers give staff 'nasty surprises'

Nurses have been advised to be “proactive” during takeovers of NHS services or risk seeing jobs lost or downgraded and the quality of services fall.

The warning came from the Royal College of Nursing in the north of England where nurses had experienced “nasty surprises” when transferring to private providers, according to regional officer Jake Turnbull.

Problems had occurred despite transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) (TUPE) rules designed to protect staff in such situations, he said.

The union said staff were hit when an out-of-hours service in North Tees and Hartlepool was taken over in April by the firm Northern Doctors Urgent Care. 

The take-over led to two nurse consultants resigning, claiming they “were downgraded to practice nurse roles” and were no longer allowed to diagnose, triage and prescribe alone, according to the RCN.

“The doctors said they would not work with nurse consultants,” said fellow RCN officer Sandra Bullock. “After [Northern Doctors] won the tender, they said the roles for certain staff would be completely different.”

Elsewhere in the region, Care UK placed around 20 per cent of the workforce in a prison health care service in the north east at risk of redundancy a week after winning a contract. Following pressure from campaigners including the RCN the firm announced there would be no compulsory redundancies.

Mr Turnbull said the union had successfully gained assurances from local primary care trusts that “quality not price” would drive successful bids to run services in future. But he warned nurses had “got to be proactive”, using tools like the Freedom of Information Act and “stern” correspondence with managers to obtain information about contracts.

“Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of how much they are prepared to share with you,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Northern Doctors Urgent Care said the company could not comment on individual cases, but added: “The new contract stated that patients were required to be provided with care by qualified GPs and a full consultation programme was undertaken with all parties under the TUPE.”

Readers' comments (23)

  • welcome to your new tory nhs!
    god help us all!!

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  • there is nothing more demotivating than being downgraded or forced into a role you have not been trained for and have no interest in without being offered a choice, or further training for the new role. what is the point of spending years training and much at one's own expense if these skills and experience can no longer be put to use? Such coercion and manipulation is inhumane and possibly illegal and against the human right of freedom of choice.

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  • And this is a surprise to anyone? We shouldn't have to be proactive, the RCN should be getting off their arses and being proactive on our collective behalf to stop this happening in the first place! Put the ballot out for a strike you wasters!

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  • The only surprise Mike, is that it is called a 'surprise'. Privatisation of the NHS has been on the Tory cards for decades, and reading your comments over the weeks on several of the articles published here, I have to stand by all of what you have said.
    I have been emailing my local MP via another proactive group about the NHS Reform bill due to be heard tofay AND the pensions fiasco. The only problem with emailing the local MP is that he is currently encumbent in No 10 :(

    I think the RCN and other bodies need to stop pussy footing around on all of these issues, and demand it stops now for nursing, secure our roles, grades pensions etc, or walk.

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  • I empathise with North Tees and Hartlepool entirely through my own experience. TUPE 'protection' is very limited despite what it was designed to actually do. These new providers are desperate to be in absolute control, desperate to out-compete anyone else and desperate to look good, and act accordingly as desperate people do. This is nothing even in the vicinity of collaboration and the lack of transparency or close inspection means the accountability is arbitrary, despite the commissioning being subject to PCT terms and conditions.
    This is not modern Britain, it is feudal and medieval, and exactly what the tory ethos is based on, inequality on all levels.

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  • Forget pensions, forget increment and pay freezes: this is the single biggest risk to your future! I’ve been warning colleagues for sometime on these boards about what the future holds.

    I actually work in one of the prisons in the north east group and was TUPE’d from the NHS over to Care UK and words cannot describe what an unpleasant and demoralising experience the last five or so months have been. Care UK have absolutely annihilated the service and staff are leaving on a weekly basis.

    How this Jake Turnbull dares to take any credit for there being no compulsory redundancies is beyond me. The RCN and Unison were absolutely useless: I’d attend meetings and only realised that the RCN or Unison had been present once I’d receiving the minutes as they never opened their mouths. When staff had to be interviewed to see if they could keep their job or not our local RCN Rep was too busy to attend as she wasn‘t given enough notice. The one and only time you need your union and they’re not there. Many of us have cancelled our union subs.

    Basically we were ditched by the NHS, with no prospects of being redeployed - sold to the lowest bidder!

    I know what many of you will be thinking this wont affect me, the reality is it might not be this year or next year, but its coming. You have been warned!

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  • This should be no surprise to anyone. Of course when private firms take over a service (or hospital) they will want to do things their way!!!

    However, the biggest surprise is likely to be ones pension. There will be no guarantees that once working for a private company your NHS pension is safe. You might have TUPE initially, but give it a little time and all ones dreams will be unravelled. All this concern about pensions and having to pay more and get less in return might be purely academic in a few years time.

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  • Anonymous | 6-Sep-2011 3:19 pm, I would just add that it is not just 'Tory led', as Labour were just as bad, they just weren't as overt about it.

    I have also contacted my local MP, who (for all her faults) has actually replied, stating (and I quote) ''I can assure you I will be voting to scrap or significantly amend this reckless, beauracratic and wasteful reorganisation of the NHS''. I was actually shocked as this was the first time I had agreed with the woman on anything. I have also emailed and supported other proactive groups too.

    It just makes me bloody infuriated that the only people who SHOULD be doing something, the unions, are once again doing absolutely piss all apart from coming out with a lot of hot air.

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  • Mike 6-Sep-2011 1:50 pm

    'We shouldn't have to be proactive, the RCN should be getting off their arses and being proactive on our collective behalf.

    I don't agree, we should be proactive' I can't believe you have this view

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  • Anonymous | 7-Sep-2011 0:26 am you kind of missed my point, but to be fair maybe I didn't express it very well.

    As many of my numerous posts on similar issues will attest, I am a big believer in strong and decisive action. Of course we should be proactive.

    My point was that our unions should be so strong and so proactive on our behalf that we wouldn't HAVE to be. Why are we being proactive whilst are unions are sitting on their arses doing nothing? If we had a half decent union, they would be so proactive that we wouldn't be facing all the problems that we are now!

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  • instead of taking it into your own hands, isn't the answer to take a far firmer stance with the unions to get them to fight the cause so that nurses can get on with their jobs?

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  • Surely the moral of the story is if you are a nurse employed by a doctor: watch your back - no change there then.

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  • Our service has just been TUPE'd over to an NHS Foundation Trust - the contract negotiated was to take us as an 'as is' service. This is why employees need to take more of an interest in this sort of thing and not just leave it up to the unions, especially if you haven't bothered to join one!

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  • how about nurses setting up their own practices outside the NHS and employing doctors! no reason why not if it is set up as a private enterprise.

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  • welcome to tory britain

    if your a nurse, soldier, police officer etc forget it your job will be gone

    if your a banker or are rich and support these eton morons then you will be looked after

    hope everyone who voted in these clowns are pleased with themselves!

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  • It is necessary for us as nurses to become more politically aware and active, particularly proactive. The unions are there to 'do it all' while we do the work of healthcare. If we think that then we are falling into the trap of thinking 'they' are responsible and 'someone else' will do it.
    I would never have imagined that my experience of being TUPE'd to a NFP (read private company) would have been so utterly depressing. They also annihilated our team, our service, our motivation and our trust in NHS management, unions and colleagues. Most people left who hadn't been made redundant already.
    Maybe the public want to be customers of their own care in the future, maybe they are happy to buy their treatment along with their weekly shop in Sainsbury's? Maybe my assessment is wrong because I don't see many of the public standing up and voicing objection.
    I'm wondering whether this is actually my job, am I falling into the trap of the 'they' that will do something and robbing everyone of the opportunity of doing it for themselves?

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  • Anonymous | 7-Sep-2011 10:07 am I am sick and tired of this 'it's the Tory's fault' mentality! Lib Dems are in power too, and things were just as bad with labour!

    Anonymous | 7-Sep-2011 9:48 am I think that is a very viable path for our profession, the way things are going now.

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  • "Anonymous | 7-Sep-2011 9:48 am I think that is a very viable path for our profession, the way things are going now."

    I think it is a very good idea but wonder whether it is feasible under British Law? I have never heard of any nurse owned practices in the UK. It is permissible in France, Germany and Switzerland and I expect in other countries as well. Services such as midwifery or community care are provided. In Switzerland you need a special public health licence to practice in your canton
    outside hospital or clinic settings.

    The bit about employing doctors, I made up but I think it would be a good idea to employ a team of doctors full or part time as consultants and subject them to the nurse-owners conditions of employment. Not sure whether it would work though. It could be used as a stepping stone in a doctor's career pathway or for those wishing to do locums, part time sessions, for women with children with flexible hours or around retirement, for example.

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  • Anonymous | 7-Sep-2011 1:50 pm yes it is absolutely feasible, it is just a relatively new and uncommon idea here for anyone apart from GPs to set up on their own, to the extent that it seems quite strange to many people, and quite daunting to many health care professionals who may not have the support to do so.

    I do not see why if a Nurse led, Nurse owned business wanted to employ an MDT team to expand services that Doctors could not be part of that.

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  • Blimey, the above comments about nurses setting up business on their own, while fine in and of itself, sounds like a Tory ideal. If they were reading this they would be extremely pleased with themselves.

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