Minutes from a recent NHS South West board meeting published last week reveal the extent of union disquiet at plans to transfer around half of the region’s community services to social enterprises.

With seven community interest companies due to go live on 1 October, the South West is making greater use of the social enterprise model to divest services under the transforming community services programme than anywhere else in the country. Social enterprises are being set up to provide the bulk of community services in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Plymouth, Cornwall, Swindon, North Somerset, and Bath and North East Somerset.

Representatives from the Royal College of Nursing and Chartered Society of Physiotherapists joined Unison representatives from across the region at the strategic health authority’s July meeting to complain that the proposals were being pushed through with little staff support – the antithesis of the philosophy that social enterprises should be staff led.

The loss of NHS terms and conditions is the biggest concern for staff. HSJ understands that while staff being transferred will keep their NHS pensions, the scheme will be closed to new recruits. Unions claim there has been a lack of public consultation and no proof the move will improve patient care or allow management cost savings.

In response to these concerns, the minutes report that NHS South West chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers “reiterated” that the decision to go forward with the social enterprise model was a local decision for primary care trusts.

He warned objectors to be “mindful of the alternative options available” if the social enterprise was dropped, “the outcome of which may be competitive procurement”.