Our exclusive story about Kingston Hospital NHS Trust’s plan to privatise its surgical and theatre services epitomises the problems facing nurses in today’s NHS (p2).
Nurses at Kingston hospital in London face a whole host of uncertainties, such as an unstable health economy, funding difficulties and the looming threat of private sector takeover.
If the trust goes ahead with its radical plan, it will be the first time that acute services at an NHS hospital are outsourced to the private sector. The trust says it has decided to take this drastic step to privatise some of its core services so it maintains service levels for at least 10 years. But it is unable to reveal which private company will take over and there has been no consultation to date with staff or unions.
While the trust’s senior management will still be legally responsible for providing services, it will delegate day-to-day running to the private sector.
Quite how this new model will work is unclear, as the trust itself admits. What this will mean for the nurses is also vague.
Its reasoning is that the number of elective surgery cases has fallen dramatically, primarily because its local PCT is also facing acute financial difficulties.
If this desperate plan goes ahead, it will set a precedent for other trusts. About a quarter of all trusts are financially weak and could try this radical route to sort out their budgets. In the end, it might make little difference for staff – but it could mean a huge change for the NHS.