Social care staff in North East Lincolnshire will be asked to vote to select their employer as part of a flagship ballot billed as part of David Cameron’s Big Society.
But a union has claimed North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus will force employees to choose between working for a GP consortium or a social enterprise and not give them the opportunity to retain the status quo in the ballot scheduled for the end of August.
Dave Monaghan, regional officer for Unite, warned both options carried huge risks to hundreds of jobs and to services, describing it as a “very unnerving and worrying time” for community staff.
“GPs are businesses and they might want to transfer nurses from other parts of the NHS instead of care workers,” Monaghan added.
“But the one option that everybody wants is to maintain their employment in the NHS, and that’s not on the ballot paper.”
The care trust plus – formed through a merger of the area’s primary care trust and adult social care directorate in 2008 – is due to be disbanded along with 150 primary care trusts by 2013, as announced in the government’s white paper last month.
It is one of 15 trusts taking part in the second wave of the Right to Request scheme, in which NHS staff will be given the right to request setting up their own social enterprises.
The Department of Health has referred to the scheme as a “Big Society boost” to the NHS that “puts NHS staff in the driving seat of innovative projects to transform patient care”.
The care trust was unable to confirm that only two options would be put to staff – but it did admit the result of the ballot would not be binding.
Peter Noble, managing director for the trust’s provider arm, said: “The staff ballot will provide a useful assessment of the overall mood of the workforce; however, the result will not be binding.”
He added: “There will be extensive consultation building on the strong dialogue we are developing with staff directly affected by the new social enterprises.”
A business plan for the future of integrated community services and services for vulnerable people would be completed by November.