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More than half of NHS Direct staff could be made redundant

More than half of NHS Direct staff face being made redundant or losing their NHS terms and conditions after a failure to reach agreement on their transfer to non NHS providers of the new 111 urgent phone service.

The non-emergency telephone number is due to replace NHS Direct’s 0845 number from March next year. NHS Direct won more NHS 111 contracts than any other provider but will only be covering a third of the country.

Contracts in other areas have been won by a mixture of NHS ambulance trusts and independent sector GP out of hours providers.

Around 750 nurse adviser and call handler posts will be put at risk.

In an email sent to staff this morning, chief executive Nick Chapman said staff transfers to ambulance trusts which had won 111 contracts would go ahead but “movement of staff to non-NHS providers (such as GP out-of-hours providers) have encountered legal problems relating to the protection of employment rights”.

He told staff management had sought “a resolution of these problems with the Department of Health but have not been able to find one”.

Mr Chapman added: “The position which I can now confirm is that the movement of staff in the areas won by non-NHS providers will proceed now on a volunteers-only basis.”

This means staff will lose their NHS pensions and other terms and conditions.

NHS Direct estimated decommissioning costs for 0845 would be £144m in a worst case scenario where all staff had to be made redundant. The board had hoped most of this would be avoided through the transfer of staff under Cabinet Office Guidelines which protect terms and conditions.

Unison called for the DH to take action to resolve the issue. A formal consultation with staff at risk of redundancy will begin on 3 December.

Readers' comments (6)

  • It seems strange to me that this is an issue under debate, the guidance and case law around TUPE is pretty clear. Is it because the potential providers were not advised of the liabilities that might be associated with winning the tender, and thus are not prepared to take on the burden since it was not factored into their calculations?

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  • I'm sure there will be ETO changes which will have a big impact.

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  • How can TUPE apply to transfers to NHS providers but not the others? The specification must have been the same regardless of the successful bidder.
    More legal challenges to follow and more fee earning income for lawyers that ought to have gone on patient care. Gvien the Audit Commission's criticism of Hinchingbrooke, is the DH capable of organising any kind of tender process?

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  • If TUPE applies, it applies to the non-NHS contractors. They either accept it or don't take the contract. They should also provide pension schemes commensurate with the NHS scheme. This will be the deal breaker as to provide an equivalent scheme to the very lucrative NHS scheme would add about 30% to the labour cost for the contractor.

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  • If TUPE applies, it applies to the non-NHS contractors. They either accept it or don't take the contract. They should also provide pension schemes commensurate with the NHS scheme. This will be the deal breaker as to provide an equivalent scheme to the very lucrative NHS scheme would add about 30% to the labour cost for the contractor.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Isn't there something in TUPE about your job has to be x percent matched? So a non NHS provider could say 111 is different to NHS Direct in terms of your role so therefore you can't TUPE?

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