Alarm in hospitals as NHS triggers emergency plans in 14 trusts after Carillion collapse

Extra staff sent to six major hospitals to ensure vital cleaning, maintenance and catering services keep operating

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 16 January 2018 14:44
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What is the Carillion fiasco? Economics Editor Ben Chu explains

The NHS has triggered emergency contingency plans across 14 hospital trusts to maintain essential services previously delivered by collapsed contractor Carillion.

Additional staff have been sent to six major hospitals where Carillion is contracted to provide essential maintenance, catering, cleaning and portering services with NHS hospitals at maximum capacity.

The construction and services company, which went into compulsory liquidation on Monday, is also in the middle of constructing two new NHS hospitals which could now face further delays.

The company’s 20,000 staff, which include around 8,000 in the health sector, have been urged by PwC, the company appointed to manage the liquidation, to continue coming to work and promised that they will be paid.

An update by NHS Improvement on the contingency measures adopted in response to the collapse confirmed “the vast majority” of Carillion’s health staff did come to work despite the uncertainty.

The Independent warned last week that the taxpayer could be left picking up the bill for Carillion’s collapse, despite it’s efforts to offload several NHS contracts onto fellow outsourcer, Serco, last year.

This comes as the NHS is already facing it’s worst winter pressures for a decade, with bed occupancy already running well above the safe operating levels which make cleaning and portering services even more essential.

The scale of the collapse been made worse after it was revealed that £1.3bn in new contracts were awarded to the contractor after a profit warning in July which foretold its looming collapse.

It’s downfall also threatens major infrastructure projects like HS2, and will leave thousands employees from small firms, owed money by Carillion, at risk of losing their jobs.

NHS Improvement said on Monday that 14 trusts receive services from Carillion:

  • In 13 trusts, Carillion was subcontracted to operate some services through the hospital’s PFI provider company, providing building maintenance, catering, and cleaning services;
  • Three of the trusts also have direct contracts with Carillion to provide services, such as car park management;
  • The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals (RLBUH) and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trusts have deals with Carillion to build new hospitals.

There are also a number of GP and community services in buildings with maintenance and cleaning subcontracted to Carillion.

An NHS Improvement spokesperson said: “While the NHS is not a particularly large customer of Carillion PLC, we have a duty to maintain safe, high quality services for our patients.

“That’s why we’ve been working with trusts and with private sector providers to have extensive contingency plans in place.

“That these plans have worked well is a tribute to the tireless work by NHS staff and by staff employed by Carillion, who have put huge amounts of effort in at what is a very difficult time for them.”

The trusts using Carillion for new buildings have said they hope planning will mean disruption to the projects is kept to a minimum.

Adam Kehoe, chief executive at RLBUH NHS Trust, which has already faced several delays constructing the new Royal Liverpool Hospital site, said he hoped that workers could be transferred to a new company to keep the project going.

“The news about Carillion is extremely worrying for their staff and sub-contractors and we hope that they receive the necessary support," he added.

“We want to reassure people that the new Royal will be built.”

Toby Lewis chief executive at Sandwell and Birmingham said he had visited workers on the site of their Midland Metropolitan Hospital on Monday, adding: “We will be working hard over the next few days and weeks to resolve any uncertainty over how this vital NHS acute hospital gets completed in 2019.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary: "The collapse of Carillion has extremely serious implications for those hospital trusts with a relationship to the firm.

"In the midst of an unprecedented winter crisis, the Government must urgently reassure patients and staff that their meals will still be cooked, hospital wards cleaned and that construction on new hospitals will not cease.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS Improvement has been helping trusts with planning and will continue to work intensively with trusts over the coming days. We will continue to support all organisations involved to minimise disruption.”

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