Union ‘jumping gun’ in health service row

A TRADE union has attacked North Somerset Council and says it is considering industrial action over its plans to create an integrated health trust with the NHS.

Unison has described the plans, voted through last week, as ‘privatisation’ and claims the council is looking to sell off the integrated care organisation (ICO) into private social enterprise in April 2013.

The council insists this is just one option it is considering.

The proposals will see an NHS trust created, combining health and social services as well as adult and social care, taking staff from the council.

Christina Cook, Unison South West regional organiser, said: “We’re really concerned about the future of these services should the council follow through with these proposals.

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“It’s apparent that the ICO is not about improving the service, but is intended to reduce the role of the public sector in providing welfare. This is privatisation and is in line with what the Tories want for the future of the NHS.

“It places public services in the hands of the market, as if welfare services for vulnerable people were commodities like tins of baked beans.”

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Unison said in a statement that it is currently considering whether to take industrial action - ‘to ensure that ‘fat cats’ don’t make money from vulnerable people’s misfortune’ - as well as campaigning against the plans.

A council spokesman said: “Health and social care services are not ‘under attack’ as a result of these proposals. Unison has got it entirely wrong.

“Unison is jumping the gun in the conclusions it has reached.

“The favoured model for the proposed integrated care organisation is an NHS trust, although a social enterprise is another possibility.”

The spokesman said the council is drawing up a detailed business plan to protect the long-term financial stability of health and social care, which will also consider the location and transfer of staff, the impact on existing contracts and any future tendering requirements.

He added: “Any employee affected by the proposed changes will be fully consulted as will the unions and it is disappointing to read the opposition to the plans before we have entered discussions with Unison.”

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