WORKERS at Colchester Hospital are said to be "up in arms" after being informed of a "bombshell" decision which could see their jobs moved out of the NHS.

The East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Colchester Hospital, is looking to no longer directly employ cleaners, porters and caterers, instead choosing to outsource the roles.

The decision comes ahead of Ipswich Hospital’s contract with private company OCS coming to an end in April 2025.

UNISON claims the ESNEFT board has decided to now put all services from both hospitals out to a single tender over the next 12 months.

It has also warned further outsourcing will impact the quality of services and in turn create a two-tier workforce with new hires paid less and subject to worse conditions than their NHS colleagues.

UNISON Eastern head of health Caroline Hennessy said: “Staff are up in arms after this bombshell has been dropped on them. 

“The trust should have used the end of the OCS contract to bring all facilities management back in house, where staff are treated better and able to provide higher-quality services to patients. 

Gazette: Signage - Colchester HospitalSignage - Colchester Hospital (Image: Newsquest)

“Instead workers are being thrown to the wolves so that some private company can milk some cash out of the health service.

“This isn’t about improving quality, it’s about saving a few quid. Nick Hulme and the board are in for a shock if they think staff will take this attack lying down.”

Bosses at ESNEFT have now defended the decision.

A spokesman said: "We have been talking to all our staff about our review of how we provide our catering (patient and retail food services), housekeeping, cleaning, portering, security services and other facilities services across the whole of our Trust.

"This is because Ipswich Hospital’s partnership with a soft facilities management independent provider comes to an end in April 2025, giving us an opportunity to consider whether we want to introduce one single approach for all these services across our trust.

“At yesterday’s meeting of our Trust Board, following detailed consideration, it was decided to implement a single approach and outsource the services across Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals and our community sites from April 2025.

"This decision has not, in any way, been based on the performance of our teams who we value so highly. There are many factors that helped us to reach this decision and we firmly believe this option will be best for our patients and the trust.

“Our most important priority is to reassure all our colleagues working in these services their employment and terms and conditions are protected through the TUPE legislation process Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006), which preserves the employment rights and terms and conditions of staff transferring between organisations.

“The next steps are to start the procurement process that will take place over the next 12 months, to find the right organisation to provide the services we need. This will enable us to put together a Full Business Case (FBC) that will be considered by our Trust Board in Autumn 2024.

"During this time, we will continue to involve all our staff  and keep everyone updated with what is going on."