Managers accused of failing to consult on social enterprise plan

NHS managers in Kent have been accused by Unite/CPHVA of pushing through a radical reorganisation of services 'by stealth'.

Unite accuses Medway Community Healthcare of trying to make itself a social enterprise without consulting its 1,350 staff properly.

Unite believes that such a move would lead to a fragmentation of services provided by health visitors, speech and language therapists, school nurses and nursery nurses for Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester.

The union argues that these moves go against government policy, which is that outside providers can only be asked to tender if a trust is deemed to be failing and has not taken remedial measures.

Sarah Carpenter, Unite's lead officer for health in the south east region, said: ‘The management is flying in the face of government policy and Unite is now challenging managers to say whether their organisation is failing, as that is the only criteria for bringing in external non-NHS providers.'

Marion Dinwoodie, chief executive of NHS Medway, which includes Medway Community Healthcare, said: ‘In line with national guidance on Transforming Community Services, NHS Medway - along with every other PCT that provides services directly - has been preparing for some time for a future in which commissioning and provision are separate.

‘As part of this, at its public meeting held in September, the board of NHS Medway considered the advantages and disadvantages of different types of organisational structure for Medway Community Healthcare.

‘The board concurred with the view of the commissioning and the providing senior management teams that, on the information currently available, a form of social enterprise, which involves strong links with the community, looks like it is best suited to deliver the high quality care that we want for people in Medway.

‘The board therefore approved Medway Community Healthcare's right to request the opportunity to explore this further - which means carrying out a planned formal consultation with staff, a full feasibility study and an analysis of risks.

'The NHS Medway board made it clear that the organisation retains the flexibility to change its preferred model to another one if it appears this would better meet the needs of patients in Medway.  

‘You can see that it is absolute nonsense to suggest that Medway Community Healthcare is trying to make itself into a social enterprise without consulting its staff properly.

‘Incidentally, Medway Community Healthcare has invited the unions to a meeting this week to talk about the changes. All have accepted apart from Unite which have currently declined to attend.'

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