The Government "doesn’t care who it hands NHS contracts to", the SoR has said after helping radiographers win compensation following the collapse of a private sector provider.
In June 2022, news emerged that Rutherford Health, a private healthcare company that operated a network of cancer and diagnostic centres in the UK, had gone into liquidation. This month, the SoR won compensation for 50 radiographers who lost their jobs as a result of Rutherford Health’s collapse.
Responding to this week’s employment tribunal, SoR director of industry strategy Dean Rogers welcomed the compensation for members but raised concerns about the government’s due diligence process when awarding NHS contracts.
Mr Rogers said: “When Rutherford was being awarded the contract for the Taunton CDC, the SoR specifically asked the NHS what guarantees it had for the centre’s long-term financial viability and what its plan B might be. We were essentially told not to worry.
“Now we see that, in fact, private companies collapse if they fail to make a profit – leaving our members high and dry. With our support, members were able to state their case before the employment tribunal, and we are pleased that they have at least been partially – though not fully – compensated for the stress and turmoil that they suffered during that period.”
The SoR had already helped members navigate a complex government scheme, the National Insurance Fund, to secure lost pay and overtime, but Mr Rogers added that the collapse of Rutherford highlighted a wider problem in the way NHS contracts are awarded.
“The government seems not to care who it hands NHS contracts to,” he said. “Rutherford was already in serious financial trouble when it won the Government contract, and the risk of the contract quickly failing should have been picked up.”
Rutherford Health had built a network of oncology centres across South Wales, Northumberland, Liverpool, and the Thames Valley since 2015, and in autumn 2021 opened the first of the government’s flagship community diagnostic centres, in Taunton, Somerset, under contract with the NHS.
On 6 June 2022, radiography professionals working for Rutherford Health were told they would be made redundant and that their roles would be terminated just three days later. The private healthcare provider did not hold the legally required consultation meetings with the affected staff.
The 50 radiographers, supported by the SoR, have now been awarded either 75 or 85 days pay at an employment tribunal held this week in Newcastle. While the result of the employment tribunal is a relief for the impacted radiographers, many staff have received only a fraction of what they were owed, and taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the compensation.
Mr Rogers urged the government to improve its checks when awarding NHS contracts, to ensure workers are protected and patients receive better care.