Nurse-led primary care provider at risk from unions

Unions are threatening to scupper a pioneering nurse-led social enterprise after a joint survey by three unions showed 84 per cent of staff were against being transferred into it.

Community nursing staff at East Elmbridge and Mid-Surrey PCT are being transferred into a social enterprise company, Central Surrey Health, at the end of this month, when they will become co-owners and contract their services back to the PCT.

The RCN, Unison and Amicus jointly surveyed staff. After the result Unison said it was looking at a range of options including mounting a legal challenge and possible industrial action if the PCT ignored the vote and pushed ahead with the transfer.

Karen Jennings, lead nurse for Unison, said there were huge concerns about the long-term viability of the new company and about the inherent risks to services and jobs.

However, a spokesman for Central Surrey Health said it understood the response rate to the survey was only 40 per cent of all employees and that some staff had not even seen the survey.

He also said the survey contained numerous factual errors, such as saying the company would be publicly listed when in fact it will be a not-for-profit company accountable to the staff as co-owners, and that pensions would not be secure when in fact they will be.

Nurse Jo Pritchard, joint managing director of Central Surrey Health, said that although nurses were bound to have concerns at times of change 'their worries are likely to be exacerbated by the circulation of conflicting information'.

She said she had heard so many expressions of support from staff that she was confident the issues could be resolved.

'There are challenges, but I do not think people will lose sight of the fact that these are really exciting times for nurses and therapists to take back control of the way they work,' she said.

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