Workers hold protest over Shropshire NHS plan

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Healthcare workers in Shropshire have staged a protest against plans to sub-contract community health services.

Shropshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) is considering changing how services like district nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy are provided.

It follows government advice to PCTs to look at how they manage the services.

But Unite said it was "a half-way house to the privatization of the NHS" and campaigners gathered outside a PCT meeting in Shrewsbury.

The option being considered by the PCT is called social enterprise, where a commercial organisation can win and lose contracts to provide services to the NHS for a limited period of time, Unite said.

Regional officer Michael Tuff said the "overwhelming majority" of the PCT's 1,200 staff in Shropshire had already voted against the proposal.

"It is clear that social enterprises are a leap in the dark in terms of provision of services and that the public has not been fully informed of what this could mean in terms of these services being delivered in Shropshire in the future," he said.

"The trust agreed to hold a ballot and then when the staff rejected the social enterprise plan, they ignored the wishes of staff and decided to press ahead regardless."

Paul Draycott, director of Human Resources at Shropshire PCT, said it was not a form of privatizing the NHS as they had asked existing clinicians, managers and GPs to "get together" to submit a proposal about taking on the providing of the services.

More involved

He accepted staff "had concerns" about the terms and conditions of the plans and added they had no indication yet if the review of services suggested by government earlier this year would be shelved or allowed to continue under the new coalition.

However, plans unveiled last week by the government suggested they were keen to get doctors more involved in managing local services.

He said: "We had to review... that was something we were asked to do so we have found a new way of funding those services and we believe that this way of delivering those services... is one that we think we should explore further.

"We're giving it to our existing community of staff and management and our GPs.

"The same way GPs aren't directly employed by the NHS, a social enterprise is a similar model."

The PCT said a decision is yet to made and the next step would be to look at the concerns staff have.

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