Private firm to 'run Suffolk community health services'

A plan to transfer much of Suffolk's community health services to a private firm has been criticised by a union as "gambling with people's health".

NHS Suffolk announced Suffolk Community Healthcare was to be run by Serco.

Health union Unison said the decision was "an ideological move, purely to save money".

NHS Suffolk chief executive Dr Paul Watson said he was certain Serco would ensure "patients continue to receive well-managed, effective services".

Services are due to be transferred by the autumn.

Serco will act as a prime contractor to deliver services in partnership with South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Bedford Community Dental Services and University Hospital Birmingham.

'No experience'

Dr Watson said: "Serco has been carefully selected and has provided us with a detailed proposal, giving rigorous evidence of its experience as a service provider and its vision and innovative plans for further improving our community services.

"It is important to stress that services will still be a part of the NHS contract."

Paul Forden, managing director of acute and community services for Serco, said: "We believe that we have created an exciting and visionary delivery model for Suffolk Community Health.

"Our integrated model of care is possible by bringing together the best of the NHS, voluntary and private sector. Key to delivering our integrated model of care is ensuring the patient is at the heart of services."

But Tracey Lambert, Unison eastern region's head of health, said: "It's an extremely sad day for the people in Suffolk and NHS staff who'll see their community service sold off in this way.

"The trust has always been recognised for delivering good quality integrated services, there is no reason for it to be hived off.

"Crucially Serco may have experience of managing hotel services for hospitals, but they do not have a proven track record in the provision of medical care.

"We would be hard pressed to know what Serco could possibly add to existing patient care and services."

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