A HEALTH trust and a trade union representing NHS workers have responded after allegations were made anonymously online over conditions at Bradford hospitals, as a strike over ‘backdoor privatisation’ fears continues.

The week-long strike of some staff at the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which includes the Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) and St Luke’s Hospital, began on Monday over plans to form a wholly-owned subsidiary company.

Jobs including porters, domestics and security staff would be transferred to the new company in money-saving measures, which have caused serious concerns over pensions and employment rights.

The Trust has said the change could save it up to £28 million over the next five years, including £13 million of savings on VAT, and that workers’ rights will be protected and carried across to the new company, Bradford Healthcare Facilities Management Ltd.

The plans have been criticised as being a form of “privatisation by the backdoor”.

Now, a Facebook account named ‘Bthft Privatisation Fight Back’ has emerged, where a number of concerns over issues including security, hygiene and food have been raised anonymously. Images purporting to show the situation at the BRI and St Luke’s have also been shared.

Natalie Ratcliffe, regional officer for Unison, said there were some “disturbing” images, but the page was nothing to do with Unison. “If it has not got our name on, it’s not us,” she said. She said she did not know if the images were accurate.

In response to the posts, John Holden, acting chief executive of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our number one priority is to make sure that we provide safe and effective care to the patients of Bradford and that’s what we are continuing to do during this week of industrial action.

“This is a challenging week but we deal with emergencies every day and our job is always the same: to keep patients safe. Clinical staff including doctors, nurses, therapists and other healthcare support workers, continue working as normal, as well as a number of estates and facilities staff.

“Contingency plans are in place for the whole week. Many Trust staff who are willing and able, and have had appropriate training, are undertaking non-clinical roles like portering and cleaning in order to cover the staff who are on strike.

“A senior group of doctors, nurses and hospital managers are meeting four times a day to review ongoing contingency plans, to ensure the safety and care of our patients.”

Bradford East MP Imran Hussain has given his backing to the striking staff. “It is right that staff are taking action to protect their jobs and the safety of patients from this backdoor privatisation,” he said. “Other NHS Trusts have scrapped their own private company plans over these concerns, and it is time for Bradford to do the same.”