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I am pleased to be called to speak in this important debate.
In my constituency, local NHS services have been an issue of concern for some time. It seems that services are forever under threat, and that our local trusts are always struggling. Dewsbury Hospital, which is in my constituency and serves my constituents, has seen a number of its functions move to Pinderfields Hospital. Its A&E has been downgraded, so that seriously ill patients are more likely to be taken elsewhere, and in recent weeks the Secretary of State for Health stepped in to prevent any potential closure of the A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. That was a welcome step, but our NHS services should not be in a position where such drastic changes to provision are suggested.
I, like so many colleagues in the House, am in awe of our hard-working NHS staff, and I know that, in the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, they continue to go above and beyond in ever more testing conditions. I pay tribute to them, and also say to Ministers that in my constituency we want our NHS staff to remain NHS.
Just last week, the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust announced plans to move staff into a wholly owned subsidiary company—something that, as we have heard from my hon. Friend Liz Twist and others, is part of a national roll-out. That subsidiary will run a considerable range of local NHS services and will be responsible for an enormous number of local staff. The announcement came with very little warning and no public engagement about the plans.
Once again, I reiterate that I appreciate and understand the pressures that are being put on NHS trusts by the Government, and Mid Yorkshire is no different; but for me, the decision to move to a wholly owned subsidiary company simply is not the right one. Opposition has already been growing. The trade union Unison has called the trust’s plans an “insult” to workers, and will be balloting its members next month over potential strike action—something that will leave my constituents concerned, but also frustrated, as this problem is avoidable. They will understand that to take people off NHS contracts, and thereby put them at the risk of a future where the terms and conditions of their employment are inferior to those of their colleagues, can only worsen the situation.
The good news is—I hope it is good news—that the decisions as to whether the trust can go ahead with its proposals are not a done deal. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care still has to approve the plans. I say to him and his colleagues that these staff, including cleaners, IT specialists, maintenance workers, help keep our hospitals safe and functioning. They have stuck by the NHS in extremely testing circumstances, throughout years of pay stagnation. I, staff and the unions know that it is not the right decision to go down this path—a path that could lead to a two-tier workforce, where two colleagues working side by side, doing the same hours, the same job, could end up taking home a different wage.
Let us do the right thing by NHS staff and local people, and consign this wholly owned subsidiary to the bin where it belongs.