Calderstones NHS Trust under fire over strategy of ‘Expansion through Exploitation’
Striking care staff from Rochdale will be in attendance at the Calderstones NHS Foundation Trust Annual Members’ Meeting in Whalley on Wednesday (1).
The staff are employed by Future Directions – a community interest company that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Calderstones. Future Directions is run by senior directors from Calderstones and reports to the Calderstones board (2).
Calderstones set up Future Directions as a “bidding vehicle for new business” in “markets where NHS pay rates are unsustainable” (3).
In Rochdale, Future Directions were the only bidder for a council contract to provide important services for people with learning difficulties. The previous contract holder, MacIntyre, did not bid because the terms offered would mean “service quality cuts and significant cost reductions” (4).
On taking over the contract and the experienced care workforce, Future Directions imposed a cut in basic pay of 22-28%, as well as reductions in holidays, sick pay, and unsocial hours enhancements.
These changes involve a worsening of the living standards of a dedicated group of 100 care workers, living in a town that is suffering some of the worst effects of austerity (5). The imposition of these cuts in pay and conditions led to UNISON members voting to take strike action. Members have already undertaken 19 days of action, and this Wednesday (25th) marks the first day of a further 10-day strike.
In regard to its core healthcare activities, Calderstones is currently being investigated by Monitor after a patient was abused while in the trust’s care (6). Earlier this year, Calderstones management conceded fault in regard to having to abandon plans to open a new facility in Bolton following a botched public consultation. Operations Director Paula Braynion said that “we messed up and we apologise” while Chief Executive David Young conceded that within Calderstones “the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing” (7). Last year, David Young received over £130,000 in salary and Paula Braynion over £85,000 plus £24,000 of benefits in kind (8).
Lizanne Devonport, UNISON Regional Organiser said:
“Our members in Rochdale are facing very serious reductions in their living standards and many are worried about losing their homes. This is no good for the local economy in Rochdale or for the vulnerable people they provide a service for. What does it say about our society if providing care for vulnerable people is treated as something to provide as cheaply as you can get away with?”
“Calderstones – through Future Directions – were willing to make cutbacks in Rochdale that other providers were not willing to make. UNISON is concerned that financial pressures on health trusts and local authorities can mean that it is the providers that are most prepared to scrimp on a service and attack employee pay and conditions that end up providing crucial public services for vulnerable people.”
“Calderstones management need to look again at their strategy of expansion through exploitation. It is not right for an NHS trust to seek to shore up its own financial viability in this way. The Trust is beleaguered by problems in its core activities in healthcare, and managers need to concentrate on putting their own house in order.”