Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust strike - everything you need to know

MPs Judith Cummins (Bradford South) and John Grogan (Keighley) visited the picket line outside Bradford Royal Infirmary
MPs Judith Cummins (Bradford South) and John Grogan (Keighley) visited the picket line outside Bradford Royal Infirmary
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Support staff at the Bradford hospital trust have been striking through this week in a row over 'back door privatisation'. Here's everything you need to know:

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What is happening?

More than 300 hospital staff including porters, cleaners and security staff are taking strike action

Picket lines and rallies have been held and will continue until Sunday July 14

In a poll, 97 per cent of Unison members taking part had voted in favour of action

Picket lines have been mounted at the trust's two main hospitals Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s

Other centres affected include Shipley Hospitals and three community hospitals at Eccleshill, West Wood Park and Westbourne Green.

Why is action being taken?

Unison members say they are fighting to stay within the NHS, arguing plans by the hospital trust to create a new company to run services amount to 'back-door privatisation'

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is setting up a wholly owned subsidiary company for its estates, facilities and clinical engineering services

This new company, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd, would be owned by the trust and operate from October

The new company would be expected to make £28m in savings within five years, with £15m from business growth and operational efficiencies, and £13 from VAT tax efficiencies

Unison claims this would mean members would no longer be employed by the NHS

The trust says it will guarantee that the affected staff would retain their existing pay and conditions of service for 25 years

Union members have dismissed this as a "pie in the sky" idea, urging the trust to scrap the plans

Impact on patients?

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has assured patients that essential services will continue as normal

Maintaining safe and effective care is its key priority the trust has stressed, with senior doctors, nurses and hospital managers meeting four times a day on contingency plans

The trust has confirmed that some willing staff are undertaking non-clinical roles like portering and cleaning to cover those staff on strike

"This is a challenging week but we deal with emergencies every day and our job is always the same: to keep patients safe," a spokesman said.

“Clinical staff including doctors, nurses, therapists and other healthcare support workers, continue working as normal, as well as a number of estates and facilities staff. "

This week's action

Union members have been on the picket lines every day, backed by MPs including Judith Cummins (Bradford South) and John Grogan (Keighley)

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea pledged her support for strikers on Tuesday, stating this was a battle of national significant to maintain a publicly owned NHS

Wednesday saw a rally, attended by around 200 union members, with calls for further strike action to be held

MP Naz Shah (Bradford West) visited picket lines today (Thursday) with Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth

Union concerns

Tony Pearson, regional head of health for Unison, said that while members did not like to cause disruption, they felt passionately about the issue.

"Our members do not buy the 25-year guarantee - we think it's pie in the sky," he said.

"For many people here, it's a religious conviction, working for the NHS. The idea of remaining within the NHS is absolutely fundamental.

"We've had huge support from members of the public, honking their horns as they go past. And we are quite determined to win this.

"We are not looking to cause disruption. This is a last resort action for our members. They are absolutely determined to remain in the NHS."

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Acting chief executive for the trust, John Holden, said the new company would be NHS-owned and would never be sold off.

This is the only model which could allow the trust to grow business, protect staff and support patient care in the long term, he added.

“It’s a fact of life that every year we have to deliver efficiency savings – about four per cent of turnover (roughly £16m) in the current year," he said.

"If we do nothing, our non–clinical services - like estates and facilities - could eventually shrink because of the need to make savings, and this will impact directly on patient care."