Does anyone really know or understand what is happening to our NHS in Somerset? asks County Labour Leader Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater South)
Let’s start with what we know, Staff are frustrated.
Why are staff frustrated? One answer is outsourcing, this comes in a few guises, one is termed “wholly owned subsidiary companies”, such as the Symphony and Simply Serve, recently 350 staff were TUPE transferred into Simply serve, this new NHS owned company, Staff have seen in the past the potential for the new employer to instigate their own organisational change. Staff then find themselves at risk of inferior T&C’s and lower pay rates. Outsourcing constitutes a breakup of the “one team” ethos of the NHS. Unions work hard along with staff to promote the value of teamwork. The cleaning staff, porters, catering staff are as valuable as the clinical and managerial staff. One without the other results in a chaotic service.
Another frustration is around restructures, Health Visitors and School Nurses who look after our young children, are now referred to as Public Health Nurses (PHN), along with the name changes in 2017 to make the service more cost effective roles were changed, despite this in February this year the PHNs were advised that on the 1st April 2019 they would be transferred to Somerset County Council (SCC) who have always been the Commissioners of the Service. Needless to say having made the changes they were unhappy at the thought of moving to SCC, but better that than into the private sector as has happened in other areas.
Despite repeated changes in department structures that staff feel always results in down grading, anxiety is high as these staff have often been NHS employees for many years, they have experience and knowledge that they now feel is not wanted, they feel undervalued and invisible. Don’t get me wrong, some change is needed, Staff are working towards a paperless service which undoubtedly will have a consequential effect on administration staffing. In my opinion looking from the outside, one of the biggest problems is with how change is poorly communicated to staff, strange, when the basis of the service relies on good communication skills.
Just to add to the confusion the Government brought in Sustainability and Transformation Plans for the whole country and Somerset has its own STP comprising of the NHS Trusts and Somerset County Council. There have been many meetings with senior HR managers & Trade Union reps involved, but little has been done to date to change the NHS other than an agreement that change needs to happen. The Trade Union view is that STP will mean slash, Trash and Privatise not what Bevan wanted 70 years ago.
On a positive note T&S have been allocated approximately £78m for a new building project on the site to replace the old theatre block and Intensive care Unit at Musgrove.
As I come to the end of this piece I want to include a comment from a registered nurse I recently spoke to, she commented “I have worked in the NHS for 39 years and have been witness to so many changes. Over these years the dedication of the staff has never waivered, what has changed is their resilience to repeated periods of organisational change and threats of outsourcing”.
If you see an NHS worker, please consider the tremendous pressure that is on their shoulders, they are doing an amazing job in the circumstances.