Controversial plans to outsource catering, cleaning and housekeeping services at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital have been agreed despite fierce protests.
The decision came just hours after demonstrators gathered outside the hospital this morning, to voice their dissatisfaction with the proposals which UNISON claims are ‘ill considered’.
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.
UNISON spokesperson Cheryl Godber said: “Such privatisation leads to worse services as companies cut staff numbers, workers terms and conditions and materials in order to maximise their profits.
“By handing over these services to a previously unknown private company the Trust is taking a risk.
“The option of continuing these services in-house doesn’t seem to have been given any real consideration, and the idea of keeping freshly prepared meals has been dismissed completely by the Trust.”
Concerns have also been raised that outsourcing cleaning services will leave the L&D more exposed to infections on the wards.
The hospital has countered that privatisation of the services will drive up standards.
An L&D spokesperson told the Herald & Post: “The award of this contract will represent a major change in the provision of several services for the Trust.
“There will be significant investment by the contractor in new catering equipment to replace old, outdated equipment.
“The Chiltern restaurant will receive a makeover, with a new coffee bar and longer opening hours.
“Once the new service is in place, patients will see a more flexible service with high quality hot meals available at all times with a much wider choice than our current service.”
The Trust’s chosen contractor for catering, cleaning and housekeeping services will be publicly named in a fortnight, as is normal procedure.
The incoming private firm will be in place by the end of October, for a contract expected to last between five and seven years.