Fears over future of Yarmouth’s new health social enterprise

Community healthcare in Great Yarmouth and Waveney will be transferred out of the NHS and into the hands of a social enterprise from tomorrow (Saturday).

Called East Coast Community Healthcare CIC, it will take responsibility for healthcare currently provided by NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Community Services.

This includes community nursing, health visiting, and therapy, health improvement services and in-patient services at four community hospitals.

But today a union, which campaigned against the move, said it feared for the organisation's long-term future and ability to compete against private companies when contracts come up for tender.

The social enterprise will have more than 750 staff, an annual turnover of approximately �37m and will provide healthcare to 230,000.

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As a not-for-profit organisation, any surpluses generated by East Coast Community Healthcare CIC will be reinvested back into services for the local community.

But unions have warned that while pay, terms and conditions have been initially protected for existing staff, they will be no longer employed by the NHS.

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Tracey Lambert, head of health for Unison in the East of England, said all the unions were opposed to the move, as the social enterprise model had been imposed on staff rather than being led by them. She said the preferred option would have been for the staff and organisation to merge with another NHS trust.

She said: 'We think it's going to be too small and won't be able to compete fearful for its future. We don't think it will be good for delivery of care to patients either.

'We will do our best to work with them and hope it will be successful, but we are pessimistic.'

The transfer was ratified by the East of England Provider Development Board earlier this month.

Chris Banks, joint managing director of East Coast Community Healthcare CIC, said: 'The new organisation will be owned by its staff and this gives them a real opportunity to influence key decisions.

'It will also give them more freedom to use their knowledge and expertise to develop innovative services to meet the changing needs of patients.'

David Edwards OBE, chairman of NHS GYW, said: 'In addition, any profits will be ploughed straight back into services where it will be used to further develop healthcare in Great Yarmouth and Waveney. It has received the support of HealthEast and local GPs as it will give closer working between primary and community services to improve services and meet the needs of our local people.'

The social enterprise will be overseen by a board, comprised of three executive directors responsible for running the organisation, two staff directors elected by colleagues and a chair and three non-executive directors drawn from the community, as well as a representative from HealthEast. The board has been operating in shadow form since the start of the summer and are now in the process of recruiting a substantive chair.

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