GMB members angry at lack of equipment which, they say, compromise patient safety

Royal Sussex hospital, BrightonPorters, cleaners and housekeepers at hospitals in Sussex are being balloted for industrial action over staff shortages and a lack of equipment which, they say, could have serious implications for patient safety.

The GMB members working for Sodexo at the Royal Sussex County and Princess Royal hospitals are being asked to work without basic equipment such as working wheelchairs and trolleys for porters and mops and cleaning cloths for cleaning staff.

These issues were first brought to the company’s attention more than a year ago but it has has taken no action to address them.

GMB regional organiser Gary Palmer said: “There are constant reports on the severe stresses and strains placed on our hospitals and frontline NHS clinical staff through underfunding and under resourcing. However matters are further exacerbated if the equipment staff requested or are expected to use is unserviceable or non-existent.

“Portering, cleaning and housekeeping are in crisis on this contract. There is a lack of fully serviceable wheelchairs, trolleys and beds. This mean that already undermanned portering teams have to spend time looking around the hospital to find a means to transport the increasing number of patients, both safely and in dignity. This shortage can often mean that equipment previously condemned and stored away awaiting repair is being pressed back into service regardless of any danger to both patient or porter whilst using it.

“Likewise cleaners increasingly find themselves not being issued on a daily basis with the required number of clean mops / cloths etc, necessary in preventing cross infections. Some are having to resort to either secretly hiding things away or taking equipment from each other, just so they can ensure they carry out their own individual duties.

“Morale is at an all-time low. There are also now serious concerns for patient safety. The lack of support by both Sodexo and the Trust in resolving matters over such a long time, means that despite of the very best efforts of Sodexo staff, and they are working extremely hard, they have to be failing both the Trust and Sodexo’s own acceptable service standard provision.

Neither party seem to understand this failing will only get worse as the on-going building works in the hospitals will make both the transporting of patients and the cleaning of the hospital even more of a challenge for hard pressed Sodexo staff. That is why GMB is pressing on with this consultative ballot for action to get these matters resolved.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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