FOUR-HUNDRED workers at Wishaw’s University Hospital will be transferred from the private contractor Serco to NHS Lanarkshire, in what the public sector union Unison has described as “a major victory in the fight to end outsourcing of hospital services”.

This follows a "PFI bleeds the NHS dry" campaign by the Lanarkshire Health branch of Unison, which aims to end private contracts for public services at NHS hospitals.

The affected jobs in question – which have traditionally been held by low-paid, part-time workers, many of them women – relate to catering, cleaning, portering, patient laundry, switchboard operation, and security.

The jobs will transfer from Serco to NHS Lanarkshire later this year for an agreed level of compensation, with no jobs lost.

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Unison Scotland convener Lilian Macer said: “This is a major success in the union’s campaign to end all outsourcing of NHS contracts putting an end to a two-tier workforce at the Wishaw hospital. It will be better for the workers, their future pensions, the community, the NHS, and the local economy. Workers will now have equal terms to their NHS colleagues and there will be no job losses.”

Macer noted the similar contract in place at University Hospital Hairmyres in East Kilbride, currently held by ISS, saying: “The Unison Lanarkshire Health branch campaign will continue to ensure that staff on the Hairmyres site are not left behind, and we will not stop our campaigning agenda with the health board and Scottish Government until we remove the private sector and staff are directly employed by NHS Lanarkshire.”

Katrina Murray, chair of Unison’s Lanarkshire health branch, added: “We are delighted at the outcome and want to thank our members and everyone who supported our campaign over the years. We have seen too many examples of these private profit-driven companies charging the NHS exorbitant rates for additional services when the real cost is a fraction of the price. There is no room for profiteering at the expense of the NHS. It’s time to get rid of these contractors once and for all.”

Colin Lauder, NHS Lanarkshire director of planning, property and performance, commented: “This is part of our long-term strategic aim and NHS Lanarkshire’s board commitment to bring staff providing these services back in-house as part of our strategic aim.

"To have these services delivered by directly employed staff is in line with the Scottish Government policy since 2008 to seek to provide services in-house where the opportunity exists to do so.”

However, Lauder stressed that the transfer “is not a reflection on the quality of the patient-focused service provided by Serco over the past 22 years and, in particular, the last two years of the pandemic".

Petra Moss, managing director of Serco’s health business, also said: “At Serco we are proud to have delivered the catering, cleaning, portering, patient laundry, switchboard and security services at University Hospital Wishaw for the past 22 years.

“We look forward to continuing our relationship with NHS Lanarkshire as Serco continues to deliver building maintenance services at the hospital.”