A TRADE union has spoken out over fears that NHS bosses in Gloucestershire are set to outsource 900 staff into a subsidiary company.

UNISON have claimed that the board of Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust will hold secret talks to discuss the plans on Wednesday, “pursuing an alleged VAT saving by selling services to itself” in a bid to cut costs.

The “Contracted Out Services Direction” allows public organisations to claim back VAT that would be incurred when they contract services to external organisations.

They added that managers have been open about their desire to refuse new staff access to NHS pensions once staff are no longer NHS employees.

It has been suggested that staff affected would be in the estates and facilities departments, covering services like portering, cleaning and maintenance.

UNISON have said that during the closed meeting on Wednesday the board will decide whether to proceed  with consultation on the subsidiary company, with a final decision due in January.

Gloucestershire Trust are believed to already be paying KPMG and DAC Beachcroft to write proposals for the subsidiary company, but has not disclosed the cost.

Michael Sweetman, UNISON organiser in Gloucestershire, said: “The NHS works when all staff are together as one team. Splitting up the health service is not going to make anything better for patients.

“We need joined up services where management focus on delivering care, rather than distracting themselves with risky tax dodges.

“Nobody apart from the government denies the NHS is in dire financial straits, but this VAT scheme is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“It’s all public money anyway and the only real beneficiaries are consultancies hoovering up taxpayers’ money.

“Working for the NHS is a badge of pride for staff and the 900 affected want to stay in it. Warm words from the Trust about the “NHS family” won’t mean much when sick pay, pensions and more are on the table. Although the Trust have prevented UNISON addressing board members, they can't ignore the concern among staff about this scheme."