WORKFORCE: Private healthcare firm Serco has announced proposals to cut 137 jobs at Suffolk Community Healthcare a month after taking over its management.

In a proposed workforce structure plan, issued to staff on 16 November, the company revealed it wanted a 17 per cent reduction in staff.

The cuts will affect band 3 health support workers, band 5 community nurses and band 6 specialist nurses and district nurses.

The company won the tender to run the services in July, in partnership with South Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust and a social enterprise called Community Dental Services.

Serco has stated it wants to make greater use of technology and improve efficiency as part of its care model.

Paul Forden, managing director of the company’s clinical healthcare business, said: “We have always been clear and transparent about our intention to further improve Suffolk’s community healthcare by investing in technology and increasing efficiency so that clinicians can spend more time caring for patients.

“As part of our new approach we will need to change the way our staff work and are now starting consultations about proposals that would mean that there would be an overall reduction of 137 posts at Suffolk Community Healthcare.”

He said there would be a reduction of 227 current roles and the creation of 90 new ones, which would be filled where possible by existing staff.

Mr Forden said the company would not be making any compulsory redundancies among frontline clinical staff.

However, unions have condemned the plans. Tim Roberts, Unison regional organiser, said: “There is no way that Suffolk Community Healthcare can lose so many key professionals and maintain current services.

“These job losses will have massive impact on health services in Suffolk and we fear that patients will suffer.”

NHS Suffolk director of strategic commissioning Tracy Dowling said: “We recognise these changes will affect some staff and that it is undoubtedly a difficult and worrying time for them.”

“We will be working with Serco and its partners to ensure this process of consultation is carried out thoroughly and that the opinions of staff are responded to during the consultation process.”