London NHS workers protest over outsourcing

Workers who transport patients in south-east London are protesting against outsourcing plans.

GMB union members have voted to strike if a private firm runs the service instead of the ambulance service.

They protested outside a meeting of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, where officials will decide if they should proceed with the plan.

The trust said it wanted to give its patients "the best possible service at the best value".

The workers, who act as both drivers and escorts for patients to and from their hospital appointments, are employed by the London Ambulance Service, which had also bid for the patient transport service contract.

The workers would not lose their jobs but could lose London weighting as the firm, Savoy Ventures, is based in Kent, and would see "dramatic" pension cuts, the union claimed.

GMB regional officer Rob Macey said: "The board meeting is now crucial to avert strike action.

"If there is no satisfactory outcome from the talks, the strikes will go ahead."

The contract covers the Guys & St Thomas, Kings College, Lewisham and Royal Marsden hospitals.

A spokeswoman for the South London Healthcare NHS Trust said: "The trust has not yet finalised a contract with a new supplier for non-emergency patient transport.

"As a hospital trust, our intention is to get the best possible hospital service for our patients and at the best value so that we can invest more on front-line patient care."

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