Big changes for staff and patients at Saffron Walden Community Hospital

PUBLISHED: 08:24 23 October 2009 | UPDATED: 22:02 31 May 2010

A SHAKEUP in the way health services in the region are run could mean big changes for staff and patients at Saffron Walden Community Hospital. Some of the services currently delivered by NHS West Essex - the primary care trust (PCT) which covers Uttlesfor

A SHAKEUP in the way health services in the region are run could mean big changes for staff and patients at Saffron Walden Community Hospital.

Some of the services currently delivered by NHS West Essex - the primary care trust (PCT) which covers Uttlesford - could become part of a new independent organisation.

If the plan gets the go-ahead it would mean that the hospital, as well as many other services such as district nursing and health clinics, will become a separate not-for-profit company known as a social enterprise.

Branch chairman of Unison (the union for public sector workers), Terry Ward, believes the proposals could give a raw deal to employees and service users.

"If this split happens then it's possible that the PCT will buy cheaper services from elsewhere, rather than the facility at Saffron Walden, which makes a mockery of the idea of a community hospital," he said.

"And staff, who have worked for the NHS for a long time and want to continue to work for the service which they are very proud of, are now being asked to privatise themselves."

"A lot of resources are being used to push the social enterprise model and we want to make sure that employees are fully aware what they are voting for."

There are a number of alternatives to privatisation and staff will be given a vote on December 9, after a 90-day consultation, on whether to adopt the idea.

The vote concerns the future of the provider arm of the PCT, known as NHS West Essex Community Health Services, which has an annual income of £34 million and employs nearly 1000 people.

It provides health services in community hospitals, clinics, health centres, GP surgeries, children's centres, schools and other locations across Uttlesford, Harlow and Epping Forest.

Managing director Vince McCabe said: "What ever happens, local people will continue to receive all their NHS services as they have before, free at the point of delivery, paid for out of the public purse and commissioned by NHS West Essex."

He added that the social enterprise model would be the best way to "protect and develop" services for the future.

"It would give our frontline staff greater freedom to make decisions closer to patients," he said. "They would also have a bigger say in how things are run.

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