It cites Hinchingbrooke Hospital, near Huntingdon, as being a guinea pig because it is seeking ‘the first franchise offer of its kind to find a partner to provide the full range of clinical and non-clinical services'.
NHS Cambridgeshire and Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS are inviting third sector, private and NHS organisations to bid for the franchise, expected to last seven years.
Owen Granfield, Unite's lead officer for health in the eastern region, said: ‘It is clear that the NHS in the east of England is using the region as a guinea pig for various privatisation initiatives, such as social enterprises. East Anglia is a laboratory for the right-wing market ideology in the NHS.'
Rachael Maskell, Unite's national officer in the not-for-profit sector, said: ‘Charities are the Trojan horse for privatisation.'
Andrew MacPherson, director of strategic projects at NHS East of England, said: 'We are actively encouraging as wide a range of organisations as possible to take a look at the operating franchise on offer as this is the best way to find the right partner for the hospital's future. Any organisations submitting a bid, including any charities and social enterprises, would have to demonstrate their track record and their ability to deliver high quality care for the patients we serve.
'Under the terms of the proposed operating franchise, NHS staff and the hospital's assets will remain firmly within the NHS. This is not an attempt at privatisation, but a chance for real innovation and change to be brought into the hospital, securing a bright future for staff and patients alike.
'The public is being encouraged to get involved in helping to shape the future of Hinchingbrooke hospital. A new newsletter, Next Steps News, has been launched to give a thorough background on why changes are needed at the hospital and answers to some frequently asked questions. Copies of the newsletter can be found at www.eoe.nhs.uk/strategicprojects or by calling freephone 0800 923 3001.'