Hospital trust agrees to bring hundreds of workers into NHS employment

Barts Health strike

Strike action was taken earlier this year in relation to the dispute - Credit: Unite

Almost 1,800 east London hospital staff including cleaners and porters will become NHS employees after a union dispute.

The board of Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs hospitals including Newham, Mile End and The Royal London, agreed to bring soft facilities management services in-house when its contract with Serco ends next year.

The workers, which also feature security guards and domestic staff, are set to benefit from NHS pay, terms and conditions.

Members of union Unite went on a two-week strike earlier this year with demands including improved pay and an end to what it called a two-tier workforce.

The union's general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Unite members and their representatives have shown impressive determination and resilience to reach this negotiated settlement.

"The workers are exposed to the same risks as NHS-employed staff, so it's only right for them to be treated equally and brought back into NHS employment."

Unison's general secretary Christina McAnea added: “These staff kept our hospitals running at the height of the pandemic. They’re the heart of the NHS and they deserve to be treated as such."

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Barts said Serco had served it notice that it intended to terminate its contract early at the end of April 2023.

A Serco spokesperson said: "We made this decision with regret but because this has been and continues to be a loss-making contract."

Barts then explored alternative options with trade unions and other stakeholders, the trust explained.

The move to bring staff in-house "was both financially advantageous but would also improve the quality of service, be flexible in response to demand and maximise engagement with staff", a Barts spokesperson added.

Shane Degaris, Barts' deputy group chief executive, said: “Our porters, cleaners, security guards, catering staff, ward hosts and domestic staff are the lifeblood of our hospitals and clinical colleagues could not do their vital work without them.

“We have always considered contracted employees to be part of our wider Barts Health family.

"As we developed our WeBelong inclusion strategy to end racial discrimination, we realised that the trust had a responsibility to take practical steps to include all our employees, including the lowest-paid.”

Barts said it will begin work to bring the 'soft facilities management' services in-house from May 1 next year.

It vowed to work with the unions to enable staff to be brought onto Agenda for Change conditions "as soon as reasonably practicable".