Scheme start-up delayed

The transfer of therapy and nursing staff to a social enterprise company in Surrey has been postponed until at least October.

The decision by East Elmbridge and Mid Surrey primary care trust to delay a possible transfer of staff out of the NHS followed the overwhelming rejection of the move in a staff ballot. As reported in Frontline (5 July), 84 per cent of staff voted against the move to Central Surrey Health, which had been due to take place from the end of July. The PCT board decided last month that it would support the move of staff, but this could only take place from October if preliminary work was satisfactory. Although PCT chief executive David Smith said the trust was committed to the company, he said Central Surrey Health must ensure 'staff, trade unions and GPs are fully involved in the process'. The PCT has also said there should be wider public consultation before the company goes ahead, and the evidence of this and other concerns will be considered by the next PCT board meeting in September. The CSP and the other trade unions involved are still not convinced the company is a viable concern, and are also concerned that information they have requested has not been forthcoming. CSP senior negotiating officer Mike D'Arcy said: 'We are glad that there has been a postponement, which is down to the joint trade union campaign, and that gives us time to see if the thing is viable. We want to get back to real talks and to see that proper public consultation takes place.' Central Surrey Health has publicly questioned the result of the union ballot and claimed there is strong staff support for the company. However, Mr D'Arcy said the votes from the unions' secret ballot were available to be independently scrutinised, whereas the company's figures seemed to have been obtained by managers individually asking staff their views. He said: 'Our enquiries are that the large majority of staff would not want to transfer unless the company is viable and the TUPE (transfer of employment rights) conditions are met.'

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