Staff member in warehouse

NHS creates social enterprise to run hospital support services

Published 9 May 2018

Cleaning, catering and portering services in East Kent Hospitals, currently run by Serco, will transfer to a new NHS-owned organisation under proposals announced by the Trust today.

Around 850 staff currently working for Serco, and 250 NHS staff working in estates, procurement and facilities services within the Trust, are coming together to form a social enterprise that will provide support services for the NHS in a bid to further improve standards for patients.

NHS staff will have their NHS terms and conditions of employment protected under TUPE law (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)).

Serco, which has been providing facilities services to East Kent Hospitals since 2012, has agreed to exit its contract a year early. It will transfer staff into the limited company wholly-owned by the NHS Trust.

The contract covers cleaning, catering, portering, retail, switchboard and staff accommodation for the Trust. Transferring Serco staff will also have their current employment terms and conditions maintained under TUPE. 

EKHUFT Chief Executive Susan Acott said: “Many of the staff who are transferring from Serco used to work directly for East Kent Hospitals so it’s great that they will be more closely connected to the Trust again.

“This is a slightly different set up than some Trusts in that most of the staff transferring into the new organisation are coming from the private sector.

“These teams are very proud to support the NHS and the care it gives its patients.

“Around 250 staff who currently work in the Trust’s estates, procurement, transport and logistics teams will also transfer, which will allow the NHS to retain experienced and skilled staff in the NHS family. We want to make the experience as seamless for staff as possible.

“Our aim is to have an organisation with a social purpose that is rooted in its local community and gives stability – the 25-year contract for east Kent will provide this stability for these crucial services.”

Wendy Sinclair, Serco’s contract director, added: “We are very proud of what we have achieved in partnership with the Trust in some challenging circumstances and pleased to be able to handover a safe and successful service. Working together, we have significantly improved the cleanliness and feel of East Kent Hospitals and provided award-winning patient catering services. I would like to thank our staff for all their hard work and wish them every success for the future. We will be working closely with the Trust to ensure a smooth transfer for all concerned and minimise any impact on service.”

Transferring services into the NHS wholly-owned company will allow support services to remain in the NHS family and enable the teams currently employed by different organisations to work together more efficiently.

As a company, they will have the freedom to run their own budgets, which means they will be able to make their own decisions to improve standards based on local need, and so drive up standards for east Kent patients. Savings the company makes will be invested in frontline clinical services, the social enterprise and its staff.

This scheme also gives the Trust greater direct control over key staff and core services for its immediate and long-term needs. 

The Trust plans for the new company to begin trading from 1 August.

The Trust and Serco will now begin formal TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) processes with staff and their recognised trade unions.