Unions at University College London Hospitals trust have protested at its 'contemptible and cynical' outsourcing of information technology systems to market-leading health computing company HBOC. The £2m contract is part of UCLH's preparations for building a new hospital under a £160m private finance initiative deal.

The 32 staff in the trust's IT department have been transferred to HBOC under the TUPE transfer of undertakings regulations. According to unions MSF and Unison, the trust gave them 'repeated assurances' that their jobs would be safe.

But immediately after the transfer, the three department leaders were removed from their duties and replaced by HBOC managers. The company then presented staff with a departmental restructuring plan involving the loss of at least seven jobs - though it says the plan is up for negotiation.

HBOC director John Barnes commented: 'UCLH and the staff unions agreed that there would be a 30-day consultation period on the future structure for the unit after we took over. We have put the two new managers in to do that consultation and reorganisation. There are some jobs at risk, but we hope to find places elsewhere in HBOC for them.'

The three transferred staff are on full pay and will get redundancy deals if they do not wish to stay, he said.

But MSF and Unison said: 'We cannot believe that the trust board, its chief executive and senior directors were unaware that this was to occur. It tells us what to expect when other trust services, with their 1,500 staff, are sold off to private companies to pay for the new hospital.'

The UCLH board said it had ensured that HBOC was following the trust's personnel procedures, 'including consultation with staff and giving them access to existing vacancies'.