MORE than 80 per cent of union members at Bradford and Airedale’s NHS trusts have voted in favour of possible industrial action over proposed plans to set up new private companies at the two trusts.

Union officials from Unison are due to be meeting the board of directors from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust tomorrow to discuss the plans to set up a subsidiary private firm.

Last week, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital, said it was looking at setting up a “wholly owned subsidiary”.

It would be a company separate from the hospital that would be responsible for services such as catering, cleaning, security, and other non-medical roles.

Hundreds of existing hospital staff would be transferred to the new subsidiary company, but would no longer be classed as NHS staff.

A similar arrangement is being established at Airedale General Hospital, in Steeton. The trust said the new set-up would lead to major savings.

Natalie Ratcliffe, regional organiser for Unison, said the results of its indicative ballot were “expected”.

She said: “Roughly about 82 per cent of members would be in favour of industrial action if the companies were formed.

“We know staff are very angry about it and do not want to be moved to a private company where their contract’s terms and conditions will be affected.

“At Airedale, if they continue with the company they would make £6 million of savings, £5 million on tax and £1 million on terms and conditions of staff, and I anticipate it be the same in Bradford.

“The Bradford board have drafted a business case but will not share it with us as it is a draft.

“We will talk about a two-tier workforce and attacks on terms and conditions. We feel this is being done purely for tax purposes.”

The board of directors meeting is taking place at Bradford Royal Infirmary from 9.45am tomorrow.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today, Bradford East MP Imran Hussain raised his concerns over the plans.

He said: “All the Government wants to do is push their ideological agenda of privatisation.

“Eventually, willing or not, hospitals will have to turn to private companies to offer services at cut-weight prices, and one example of this back-door privatisation is taking place currently in hospitals serving my constituents.

“Bradford NHS Trust is being forced into planning to set up a private company to provide services that are vital to the people of Bradford that will seek to make a profit.

“Let that sink in, that is how bad it has become, hospitals need to supplement their funding by whatever means possible, and it is a slippery slop from here to ever further privatisation.

“This will not prevent another winter crisis, but encourage another one with private companies putting the safety of health services at risk.”