Serco should be thrown out of our hospitals and food should, once again, be treated as central to health and getting better, not as a means to enrich further the already wealthy.
350 tonnes of waste, including human body parts, amputated limbs, infectious fluids and cancer substances had been unsafely stockpiled and disposed of by Healthcare Environmental Services. The Independent, 5 October 2018.Few realise how far the privatisation of the NHS has advanced and how damaging it has been to our public health service.. According to the Department of Health, the private sector delivered a total of £8.7bn of NHS services for 2015/16, or around 7.6 per cent of the total NHS budget. These figures have risen since and exclude GP services, dentistry and community pharmacy.
David Hare, chief executive of the Partners Network, which represents private sector providers, has said there was a slow “evolutionary trajectory” of greater private sector involvement in the NHS with over 30 companies involved to date.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Care lead the way and over the past seven years have been awarded NHS contracts worth over £2.5 billion. Today they are running over 400 NHS services.
As a patient at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London, I am aware of the most recent arrival here; Serco. They replaced the notorious Carillion and clean the wards and provide our meals. Their employees, loving, gentle and caring like all NHS workers, once worked directly for the health service, but today they are all agency staff lacking even the paucity of security offered to NHS employees. Most are earning £8 per hour and haven’t seen a pay rise for ten years. This outsourcing is cheap because the caterers and cleaners can be employed with worse terms and conditions than in-house staff.
This is all good news for Serco’s CEO, Rupert Soames (Winston Churchill’s grandson) with his annual salary of £850,000.
The company proudly declare that they, ‘serve many community services, including hospitals, the military and prisons.’ Oh and not forgetting the Flyingdales early warning system in Yorkshire. The company also runs Yarls Wood women’s immigration detenton centre. They were referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the Ministry of Justice for the electronic tagging of prisoners there and in other ‘holding’ facilities. When the women went on hunger strike in March 2018 their supporters left decaying food on the steps of Serco’s London HQ in an act of solidarity.
The company has since struggled to win new work while losing a series of contracts including a deal to manage the Docklands Light Railway in London and run a New Zealand prison amid allegations that staff were running “fight clubs”.
Talking of food, Serco food here at Barts is, well, a mess of mash. I have started chosing sandwiches as an option; today’s tuna lunch, shrouded in white chemical bread. It would not cut much into Rupert’s salary to order in half-way decent rolls.
Serco should be thrown out of our hospitals and food should, once again, be treated as central to health and getting better. It must not be a means to enrichment for the already wealthy.
Question for their CEO. What did you eat for lunch today, Mr Soames? Oh and Serco workers need union support and protection, but they are too scared to speak out.
David Wilson is currently a patient in Barts Hospital, London.