UNISON members at a Bradford NHS trust have voted to take strike action amid fears over "backdoor privatisation" of some of its services.

More than 200 staff working for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have voted to take industrial action in a bid to defend their pay and conditions.

UNISON balloted its 313 affected members after the Trust unveiled plans to set up a wholly owned subsidiary company. The union's membership has now increased to 350.

As part of the move, hospital staff in the Trust's estates, facilities and clinical engineering departments will be transferred to a new company, affecting around 600 people.

The union fears the transfer will strip workers, including porters, domestic and security staff, of the protections they have as NHS employees.

The trust, which includes Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital, has denied it is privatising services and says the new company is the “best way of continuing to provide high quality care for patients”.

Unison Regional Organiser Natalie Ratcliffe said: “This sends a clear message to the Trust that members are angry about these proposals.

“They clearly want to stay employed within the NHS to ensure they retain NHS conditions of service - and remain part of the NHS 'family', as the Trust describes its employees.”

Members are intending to take strike action early next month unless the Trust scraps its plans.

Ms Ratcliffe added: “We are open to talks, even at this late stage, but the Trust needs to know that our members have taken a very clear position on this issue.

“The Trust have said they will guarantee that these members will have their pay and conditions for up to 25 years. Our members see that this is a promise that can be very easily broken.

“The fact that almost 97 per cent of members who voted have made the very difficult decision to take strike action to oppose these disastrous plans shows how angry they are.”

A spokesman for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Arrangements are being made to ensure that patient safety and levels of care at Bradford Teaching Hospitals are not compromised by any industrial action and all essential services, such as emergency and urgent surgery, will continue as normal.

“The Trust Board is clear that setting up our wholly-owned subsidiary, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd (BHFML), is the only model which allows us to protect our staff and protect patient care.

“The Trust ruled out outsourcing because we believe we wouldn’t have been able to retain the same level of influence over the quality of the service or guarantee protection for staff terms and conditions."

They added that staff would have their terms and conditions protected by TUPE and the board had guaranteed to protect their terms and conditions for the length of the 25 year contract, as well as protecting membership of the NHS pension scheme.

“We have every confidence that BHFML will be a successful organisation that values its staff and supports both patient care and our local economy.”