11 July 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is setting up a wholly owned subsidiary company (WOS) for its estates, facilities and clinical engineering services to be entirely owned by the trust.
The new company, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd (BHFML), will operate from 1 October.
Every year the trust has to deliver efficiency savings - about 4 per cent of turnover (roughly £16 million) in the current year.
In a statement the trust states that it "must take all steps to protect frontline services and provide safe and effective patient care".
It added: "If we do nothing, and as we make year-on-year efficiencies, it will be increasingly difficult for our support services to continue as they are now, which will likely impact directly on patient care. Rather than wait for the inevitable contraction and decline, we want to use our scale and expertise to build up the business and win additional work to reinforce the core NHS support service.
"As BHFML grows, and makes an increasing profit, the level of reinvestment will also increase, which will further improve its operational and financial strength and help ensure sustainability for these services.
"BHFML will be able to seek new business opportunities on a level playing field with other commercial companies, as its tax arrangements will be the same. Cash released from tax efficiencies will allow us to reinvest in-patient care, the hospital estate and BHFML staff development.
"The creation of a WOS company is not privatisation. The trust board has explicitly decided against outsourcing our estates, facilities and clinical engineering services because we believe we wouldn't be able to retain the same level of influence over the quality of the service, or guarantee protection for staff terms and conditions in the long term.
"Furthermore, we want these services to continue to work to the core trust values and be part of the NHS family.
"Once we set the company up, staff will keep their NHS identity and be employed directly by an NHS-owned company - BHFML. The trust board is clear that setting up the new company is the only model which allows us to protect around 600 members of staff and protect patient care."
Following a period of engagement with staff and trade unions, the trust states it is now in the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings - Protection of Employment) consultation phase ahead of the transfer of staff to BHFML on 1 October.
However, trade union members in estates and facilities at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have taken industrial action over the establishment of the company, calling it "backdoor privatisation".