This site is intended for health professionals only

Possible pension crisis for NHS employees

Tens of thousands of NHS employees could lose out on pay and pensions, if they are transferred to "social enterprises" - privately-run companies bidding to win contracts to provide healthcare.

Amicus, the third largest NHS trade union, has warned in a new pamphlet that the NHS is in danger of "becoming a brand rather than a national public service". 

Amicus warns that "social enterprise" organisations are outside the NHS and that Agenda for Change pay and conditions would not necessarily apply. Existing staff would be covered under TUPE legislation, but this was "not set in stone". Pensions would only have to be "broadly comparable" to the NHS pension scheme.

In its document, Social Enterprises and the NHS, Amicus said: "There would be no such guarantees for new staff, raising the spectre of a two-tier workforce developing."

The need to win contracts - against tough competition from multinational companies - to secure future funding may lead to "an erosion" in the number of staff and their conditions, such as annual holidays.

"The goodwill and commitment of staff to ensuring users receive good quality services should not be taken advantage of to pay low wages and reduce costs by lowering terms and conditions, and cutting training and resources."

Central Surrey Health was the first major social enterprise to be established when East Elmbridge and Mid-Surrey Primary Care Trust decided to hive off its nursing and therapeutic services. All 650 nursing staff were transferred and received as 1p share officially making them "co-owners". This was despite an 85% vote by staff, belonging to a union, not to be transferred.

Amicus Head of Health, Kevin Coyne said: "The implications of the government's social enterprise policy are wide ranging and could affect tens of thousands of health staff currently in the NHS and the services they provide to patients and clients."

"I don't think the public has yet woken up to the massive impact this will have to the NHS as they now know it. This is the privatisation of the NHS on a large and untested scale."

The government continues to press ahead with this policy and recently announced 26 social enterprise "pathfinder projects".

The pamphlet can be viewed at in the Health Sector area.