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Ballot sees transfer rejected

Plans to transfer therapy and nursing staff from a Surrey primary care trust to a private social enterprise company have been overwhelmingly rejected by staff.

In a ballot of staff at East Elmbridge and Mid Surrey PCT, 84 per cent voted against proposals to transfer services to Central Surrey Health. The company is due to take over up to 800 staff from the end of this month under a contract worth around £22 million.

Not-for-profit social enterprise companies, in which employees become shareholders, are seen by the Department of Health as a new way for services to be delivered in the future.

If the company gets the go-ahead it would be the first large-scale transfer of staff to an employee-organisation.

However, a meeting of unions and management last month heard there are serious doubts about the financial viability of the company.

CSP senior negotiating officer Mike D'Arcy said: "We have been given very little information, but from what we do know the venture as it stands is an unacceptable gamble with the future of NHS jobs and the quality of patient services. For instance, we know there are problems at present in securing all the contracts to make it viable.

"What we are saying is that it should not go forward until those problems have been resolved. If you are going to go down this road, given all the difficulties, this should be piloted in the NHS first."

Although guarantees have been given about issues such as transferring pension rights, there are concerns that in the event of the contract going out to tender at a later date, jobs and services would be threatened.

East Elmbridge PCT chief executive David Smith has agreed to take the concerns of the unions to next week's PCT board meeting. The unions have also written to the PCT board stating that it would be against the best interests of members to transfer to Central Surrey, and that they would oppose the transfer. They are looking at a range of options, including mounting a legal challenge and possible industrial action if the PCT goes ahead with the transfer.


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5 July 2006

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