Flying Scotsman health centre: Fury after Doncaster dental staff are put on gardening leave on full pay by NHS after private firm failed to take on contracts

Over 20 staff at an NHS dental surgery in Doncaster have been placed on gardening leave after a private company failed to take over their contracts.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 04 April, 2019, 13:41
Flying Scotsman health centre. Picture: George Torr/LDRS

Councillors on Doncaster Council have raised concern around the move after private firm Dental Partners won the NHS England service.

Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, who previously had the contract, declined to re-tender due to financial reasons.

Flying Scotsman health centre. Picture: George Torr/LDRS

The surgery, based at the Flying Scotsman Health Centre on St Sepulchre Gate West, caters for emergency treatment and is often used by rough sleepers and the homeless.

This has left people in Doncaster without an emergency dental service

The decision to move the staff over was taken last year, but staff were only informed of the move at the end of January.

Health union Unison raised concerns and said the three month time frame was ‘too short’ to get everything in order an added the new company either ‘don’t want all or any of the current staff’.

The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) process, more commonly known as TUPE, failed to materialised which means staff face now an uncertain future.

Staff, who were sent home on Monday, have been placed on gardening leave for ‘six to eight weeks’ and are being paid in full by Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, the body who run Rotherham Hospital. The debacle affects around six dentists, 15 dental nurses as well as other support staff.

Bosses are set to meet with staff and trade union officials tomorrow to try and resolve the situation.

One councillor who didn’t wished to be named at this stage, said the situation was ‘shocking’ and said this was ‘typical privatisation’.

The councillor also questioned bosses at Doncaster Council why the changeover was not debated at a scrutiny committee

The councillor said: “It’s not a good start for a company because the concerning thing with the Flying Scotsman centre is a lot of people who attend there for dental work are vulnerable because of the complex needs that they have.

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“They can’t always access dental services and the Flying Scotsman is the place to go and there’s staff there who they are comfortable with.

“I fear there is going to be a lot of problems if they’ve already started like this,

“There’s a concern as well about jobs – it’s a very adversarial path to take to put people on forced leave and they’re not sure if they’re going back to work or not.

“When you’re imposing these types of conditions on loyal and good staff it’s shocking because there’s a clear knock on effect for people who need it.

“It’s just typical of privatisation – it’s all about money and nothing about care.”

Jamie Thompson, a local organiser for the union Unison, said the situation was ‘unprecedented’.

He said: “From the outset we said that three months was too short a period of time to get everything sorted but we were basically ignored.

“The main sticking point is that the new company either don’t want all or any of the current staff.

“But the NHS are still their employers and they are responsible for what happens to them.

“They have given them assurances that they will be paid this month even though they are not at work but it is really unsettling for everyone.”

Unison said they have also been in touch with local MPs Rosie Winterton and Ed Miliband about the issue and have also begun legal claims on their behalf.

A Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “We’re in ongoing dialogue with the other principal parties, NHS England and Dental Partners and hope to resolve the outstanding issues in coming days.

“Senior managers from the Trust will be meeting with staff affected and their trade union representatives tomorrow (Thursday) to outline next steps.”