170 doctors employed by Homerton University Hospital calling on management to rethink a controversial outsourcing deal
Update on the Homerton Hospital Campaigns ‘Same Risk, Same Reward’
This article was published in the Healthcare Leaders Journal HSL 19 June 2020
170 doctors urge trust to rethink ‘deeply troubling’ outsourcing deal
By Jack Serle 19 June 2020, HSJ,
A third of the doctors employed by Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust have written to management, calling on them to rethink a controversial outsourcing deal.
Homerton FT is planning to extend a soft facilities management contract with ISS Mediclean until 2025, as it wants continuity during several planned “critical and complex changes” to its estate.
This has spurred 170 of the trust’s 464 doctors to write to the chief executive, Tracey Fletcher, urging her to reconsider.
The letter says: “We are writing as Homerton employed doctors in support of our ISS colleagues. We understand that a further five year contract is to be signed with ISS at the end of this month. We have been proud to work alongside colleagues in cleaning, portering, catering and security services during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have gone above and beyond in their commitment and hard work, just as NHS staff have.
“Their work is invaluable to the care we offer our patients. Without these colleagues, our hospital would run poorly. Despite all of us being invested in trust values, these employees… by being employed through ISS… receive worse pay and worse terms and conditions, including only statutory sick pay.
“It is therefore disappointing and deeply troubling that the trust has decided to extend this contract and these inequalities for a further five years. Covid has rightly shone a light on our less valued colleagues, who are so important. It is an opportunity for change and not to just pay lip service to the NHS family.”
Both ISS and the trust confirmed the letter had been received. However, the seniority and identity of the doctors who signed it is unclear.
The FT’s governors also quizzed Ms Fletcher on the potential for the trust to insource soft facilities management services at a recent meeting. They were told staff are paid at London living wage of £10.75 an hour.
According to the tender notice for the contract, which offers a three-year extension from 2022, the trust plans to make “significant changes to the fabric and operation of the hospital” including to its pathology lab. The pathology changes are part of plans to join a pathology network centred on Barts Health Trust and also including Lewisham and Greenwich Trust.
The FT, therefore, believes “a period of stability is required in its facilities management services”, according to the notice.
An ISS spokeswoman told HSJ: “ISS is disappointed that the signatories have not engaged in direct conversation with ourselves. If they had, they would be able to understand the full nature of the agreement with the trust that is transparent and seeks to provide the ISS employees with a long-term future serving the local community, who have been very grateful for the contributions that have been made during the current crisis.”
HUHFT was also approached for comment.
Staffing unions said their members have faced “maximum risk for the minimum reward” through the covid-19 pandemic, saying they should be given “the same terms and conditions as everyone else in the NHS”.
Professor Allyson Pollock said when asked about the contract renewal at Homerton Hospital:
"It's vitally important that all staff have full financial protection if they fall ill or have to quarantine. Such protection contributes to effective infection control in a hospital setting. Contracts should be reviewed and not renewed if such financial protection is not in place."
Professor Pollock is the Director of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Newcastle, a highly regarded public health expert and a member of the Independent SAGE.
The Independent Sage Report also raises concerns about the public’s ability to self-isolate on statutory sick pay –which is what the Homerton Executive plan to pay their frontline Healthcare workers, on the extended facilities management contract, for the next 5 years!
“There are also concerns about the level of Statutory Sickness Pay in the context of COVID-19. Currently, is too low (£95.85 per week) and is not enough to live on for working families. Low levels of statutory sick pay, and restricted eligibility increase the risk that people who are ill, or around those who have been ill, are spreading coronavirus. Around one in five workers are not eligible because of low or intermittent pay/zero-hours contracts.”