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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Protest at private finance plan
The Royal London Hospital
Unions claim PFI means "immense uncertainty" for staff
Nurses and hospital workers have been demonstrating outside a major London hospital in protest at plans for one of the UK's largest private finance initiatives.

Senior management at Barts and The London NHS Trust are said to be on the verge of inviting tenders from private sector firms to rebuild and help run a new hospital.

But unions say there should be no decision until the completion of three pilot projects under which the jobs of hospital staff remain within the NHS.

Unison national officer Steven Weeks said: "There's been a long-standing need to redevelop services in east London.

The trust board are considering whether to put an advertisement out, but this is not the appropriate time

Steven Weeks, Unison

"We accept that, particularly when a number of smaller hospitals have been closed, but PFI (private finance initiative) is not the way forward."

The union claims the terms and conditions of employement for NHS workers have worsened under PFI.

In a statement, senior trust managers said they were committed to ensuring any staff transferring to the private sector were "fully protected".

Unison wants the trust to wait before any decision is made, claiming that PFI creates "immense uncertainty" for staff.

"The trust board are considering whether to put an advertisement out, but this is not the appropriate time," said Mr Weeks.

Victorian surroundings

Under the pilot schemes, workers at Roehampton in south-west London, Havering in Essex and Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, will retain NHS contracts despite private sector involvement.

A spokesman for the trust said: "The people of Tower Hamlets, the City and east London are in desperate need of a new modern hospital.

"Trust staff work hard to provide 21st Century health care in the Victorian surroundings of the Royal London Hospital.

"Like all hospitals currently planning to rebuild, we are looking to finance the bulk of our plans through a private finance initiative in line with government policy."

See also:

09 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Unions ready for private sector row
06 Sep 01 | ppp
How private bids work
03 Sep 01 | ppp
Private company bonanza
03 Sep 01 | ppp
Is PFI a good deal?
30 Jul 01 | Health
Failings at first PFI hospital
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