Hospital clusters warning

Maintaining nationally-agreed pay and working conditions in new regional ‘hospital clusters’ is a priority for IMPACT, the union’s Health and Welfare Divisional Council heard yesterday. The union is also concerned that the range, quality and availability of hospital services is at least maintained in the new system, amid concerns that centralisation will mean patients having to travel long distances to get certain services.

Workers’ representatives from England, where a similar system is already in place, warned that some UK hospital trusts have gone bust.

The new model – currently being rolled out in the West-North West region – will see the establishment of six large hospital groups nationwide, plus the national children’s hospital. Each group will include a range of hospitals providing general medical, acute care, day surgery and elective inpatient surgery.

Three of the seven clusters have appointed CEOs and it’s expected that the others will be appointed by the end of this month.

IMPACT official Richy Carrothers said IMPACT had established a forum for hospital representatives in the West-North West region. Representatives from the forum meet with management from the hospital cluster. This approach will be followed in other areas.

But maintaining national bargaining is also a priority. “Our main concern is that the pay and working conditions for the staff working in these hospital clusters is set at national level, not by each of the seven individual hospital clusters,” said national secretary Louise O’Donnell.

Trevor Johnson, regional head of health at UK trade union Unison, told the meeting about pitfalls in the English system. Some English hospital trusts in England went bust and had to taken back into central NHS control.