Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is setting up a wholly-owned subsidiary company (WOS) for our Estates, Facilities and Clinical Engineering services, which will be entirely owned by the Trust. The new company, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd (BHFML), will operate from 1 October 2019.
There has been recent media coverage about this, as UNISON has balloted its members in the Estates and Facilities team, and has now informed us of its intention to take industrial action from 8 to 15 July.
We are putting in place robust arrangements to ensure that patient safety and levels of patient care are not compromised.
Why are we setting up a company?
Every year the Trust has to deliver efficiency savings – about 4% of turnover (roughly £16m) in the current year. The Trust must take all steps to protect frontline services and provide safe and effective patient care.
If we do nothing, and as we make year on year efficiencies, it will be increasingly difficult for our support services to continue as they are now, which will likely impact directly on patient care. Rather than wait for the inevitable contraction and decline, we want to use our scale and expertise to build up the business and win additional work to reinforce the core NHS support service.
As BHFML grows, and makes an increasing profit, the level of reinvestment will also increase, which will further improve its operational and financial strength and help ensure sustainability for these services.
BHFML will be able to seek new business opportunities on a level playing field with other commercial companies, as its tax arrangements will be the same. Cash released from tax efficiencies will allow us to reinvest in patient care, the hospital estate and BHFML staff development.
The creation of a WOS company is not privatisation. The Trust Board has explicitly decided against outsourcing our Estates, Facilities and Clinical Engineering services because we believe we wouldn’t be able to retain the same level of influence over the quality of the service, or guarantee protection for staff terms and conditions in the long-term. Furthermore, we want these services to continue to work to the core Trust values and be part of the NHS family.
Once we set the company up, staff will keep their NHS identity and be employed directly by an NHS-owned company – BHFML. The Trust Board is clear that setting up the new company is the only model which allows us to protect around 600 members of staff and protect patient care.
What will happen to staff terms and conditions, and the NHS identity?
Following a period of engagement with staff and trade unions, we are now in the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment) consultation phase ahead of the transfer of staff to BHFML on 1 October 2019.
As part of TUPE legislation all affected staff will have their terms and conditions protected. In addition, the Trust’s Board has guaranteed to protect their terms and conditions for as long as the new company has the contract with the Trust, which is 25 years.
We have also had a guarantee from NHS Business Services Authority that existing staff will continue to have access to the NHS Pension scheme. We will protect terms and conditions if staff get promoted, or increase or reduce their hours, and we will look to match the annual NHS pay awards.
We have listened to concerns from our staff and union colleagues and agree that we should not have a two-tier workforce. That’s why we have also taken an additional step, going above and beyond what any subsidiary company in the region is doing, by offering terms and conditions for new starters that are comparable to the national NHS Agenda for Change terms and conditions that existing staff will transfer on.
Staff who work in Estates and Facilities as part of the Staff Bank (the Trust’s temporary staff register) will have the same opportunity to work for BHFML as they do now and on the same rates of pay as now.
And in the highly unlikely situation that BHFML fails or the contract is ended sooner than the 25 year period, all services will transfer back to the Trust; and this will be built into the legal contract documents between the Trust and BHFML.
BHFML will have access to the Trust’s payroll, IT services, HR, parking permits, lease car scheme, childcare services, training courses, and health and wellbeing services.
Our people, our future
Within Estates, Facilities and Clinical Engineering services we have a highly skilled, knowledgeable and motivated team of staff who do an excellent job.
Over the years these teams have innovated, adapted to new demands and kept delivering high quality services day in, day out, but with increasing financial challenges in the NHS it is getting harder to maximise quality and value for money without significant change.
We want to sustain and develop these services for future years: that’s why it is essential for us to develop BHFML and grow the business so it becomes more sustainable, successful and secure for everyone who works there.
The Trust will hand over decision-making to the new company so it can decide how to develop its staff, and have a commercial strategy to focus on growing the business, such as in GP practices and local schools, in addition to its main NHS contract.
But the Board of Bradford Teaching Hospitals will be able to ‘reserve’ some decision-making rights so that the company must always seek agreement of the Trust Board on these matters. This is one of the key safeguards we can put in place to address concerns that those who work in the new company will be at more risk than if they had stayed directly employed by the Trust.
BHFML will be better placed to work with small and medium-sized businesses locally which are not usually able to work with the NHS due to their size. By growing the business it will also mean we can provide additional employment, training and development for local people.
We have every confidence that BHFML will be a successful organisation that values its staff and supports both patient care and our local economy.