A union has branded plans to outsource jobs at Luton and Dunstable Hospital as “ill considered”.
By the end of summer cleaning, catering and housekeeping services at the hospital will be in the hands of a contractor– with bids from private companies currently being assessed.
The L&D has said that the move will save money and bring about investment, though UNISON claims that the outsourcing will drive down standards.
The union’s chief concern is that food made by in-house chefs will be replaced with meals prepared off-site, shipped to the hospital and heated up.
Cheryl Godber, UNISON regional organiser, said: “We all know that good, fresh food is an important part of recovery so to move to an inflexible cook-chill service when you are already producing quality food on site seems incredibly short sighted.
“Once they lose the ability to prepare all the meals on site it’ll be really difficult to get these services back.”
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, added: “No one wins from this proposal.
“It can only do harm to the cooks employed to make the food, to patients and their family and friends, to hospital staff and to the local suppliers who would value the hospital’s business.
“It’s a backward step which is very difficult to recover from.”
Concerns have also been raised that outsourcing cleaning services will leave the L&D more exposed to infections on the wards.
Cheryl Godber said: “The plans to outsource the hospital’s cleaning is also ill considered.
“These companies look to employ less staff on worse terms and conditions in order to make a profit.
“People should be asking themselves, is this going to improve an already excellent service? Such high standards are essential to protect patients from risks such as MRSA and C. Diff.”
An L&D spokesperson told us: “The Board of the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital made a decision in 2014 to outsource three support services; cleaning, catering and housekeeping, to improve the quality of service and achieve better value.
“The Trust has undertaken a procurement under EU public services tendering legislation and the Trust is at the final stages of evaluating the bids, with the intention of a new service provider being operational in the autumn.
“The staff affected by the change have been kept fully informed throughout the process.”