ballots Protests at private 'take-overs' and BMA leadership 'failure'

Union efforts to derail government policy they say is encouraging the 'privatisation' of NHS services were stepped up this week as primary care trust staff voted against a flagship social enterprise company and British Medical Association members told its leaders to oppose reforms.

Most staff who voted in a joint Amicus, Unison and Royal College of Nursing 'indicative' ballot at East Elmbridge and Central Surrey PCT said they did not want to transfer to a local, nurse-led social enterprise.

Central Surrey Health is proposing to take over all primary and community services provided by the PCT when it merges into a Surrey-wide organisation. The PCT board is due to vote on whether to commission CSH at its board meeting on 11 July.

Local union representatives said they were given verbal reassurance that staff NHS terms and conditions would be protected at a meeting with CSH and the PCT following publication of the ballot results last Friday. They are now seeking written confirmation from the Department of Health, and publication of financial information so that they can reassure members the fledgling company is viable.

Unions cannot veto the transfer of staff to the new organisation if it is approved by the PCT board. However, if they are not satisfied as to the viability of the company and 'safe and smooth transfer with full NHS terms and conditions intact', they will bring in their national negotiators, according to RCN local lead Sarah Dodsworth.

Meanwhile, 58 per cent of delegates said the BMA 'leadership' has 'failed patients, the profession and the country by their failure to oppose the current wave of organisational and financial reforms, which are destabilising the NHS'.

The doctors voted on the motion put forward at its annual representative meeting in Belfast this week.

BMA chair James Johnson said the organisation could not simply say 'we don't like your policies' if it wanted to influence strategy.