latest health care news

03.07.18

Criticising wholly-owned subsidiaries ‘undermines their legitimacy’ instead of mitigating risks

A membership organisation accounting for those who deliver services in acute hospitals, community, mental health, and ambulance services has reiterated its support behind the use of wholly-owned subsidiaries (WOS).

WOS are not-for-profit NHS companies that allow trusts to keep all of their shares, meaning funding for the organisation and staff remains in the NHS system. But not everyone backs their implementation, with Labour's shadow health spokesperson, Lord Hunt, writing about the damage they have inflicted for the latest issue of NHE.

In May, East Kent Hospitals University FT (EKHUFT) came under fire for its plans to transfer staff to a new WOS company that would see just over a thousand cleaning, catering, portering, and back-office NHS employees transferred to the new organisation, called 2gether Support Solutions.

In March, NHS Providers defended the companies against claims that WOS are a back door to privatisation by arguing they are a key tool for NHS trusts and enable them to “respond effectively to a range of challenges.”

The organisation has now reaffirmed its support, with NHS Providers’ deputy CEO Saffron Cordery claiming that in an environment where providers are under enormous pressures, trusts “are right” to consider ways to provide services safely and more efficiently.

Cordery said: “Trusts set up WOS for many reasons and there is a danger that the criticism levelled at this approach could undermine their legitimate use of this option. This is not a device for privatisation.

“Many frontline leaders tell us WOS allow them to keep services within the NHS family, allowing taxpayers’ money to stay in the system, rather than outsourcing to the private sector or cutting staff or services. What we need to do is maximise the benefits of setting up a subsidiary and mitigate the risks, rather than undermine or prevent trusts from using them.”

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