20 December 2012
A voluntary organisation is threatening legal action against NHS Suffolk for its decision not to consult patients about proposed changes to community health services in Suffolk, services which are currently being run by the a privately owned company Serco Limited.
Lawyers for Sudbury WATCH, Working and Acting Together for Community Health, which aims to support, maintain and improve local health services in the Sudbury district, have written a letter before action to the PCT.
They ask it for information surrounding the appointment of Serco Limited to deliver health services in Sudbury along with questions about a confidential consultation being undertaken amongst SERCO staff about changes to the way in which NHS services are to be delivered to the public.
These changes are likely have a significant impact on patient services. According to Sudbury WATCH, Serco are proposing a “new model of care across Suffolk” suggesting reductions of up to 137 staff delivering NHS services across the county, a total of 17% of the workforce.
The Serco run Suffolk Community Healthcare is looking to reduce staff by 9 specialist and district nurse positions, 30 community nurses, 18 general health worker posts, and 8 physiotherapists.
Rosa Curling from law firm Leigh Day who are representing Sudbury WATCH said: “The ‘new model of care’ being proposed by Serco is likely to result in significant impacts on patient services. The large number of cuts to staff members will affect the services currently available to people in the Sudbury district. In these circumstances, the PCT must consult and involve patients before deciding whether to change NHS services as suggested in the confidential document.”
Sudbury WATCH has challenged claims by the PCT that “This [i.e. the changes set out in the consultation] means Serco should provide the same range of community services that were provided by Suffolk Community Healthcare prior to transfer”.
Peter Clifford from the organisation said: “While the range of services may be retained by Serco, if 137 staff are removed it is clear that the services available to NHS patients will be scaled back.Any changes of this nature require full public engagement under the NHS constitution. We believe the PCT has acted unlawfully in failing to comply with its obligations to engage patients in the process that will lead to substantial changes being made in the services for patients in Suffolk. “