Porters, cleaners and housekeepers working for Sodexo at the Royal Sussex Hospital are considering industrial action over safety fears.
The GMB union says building works, lack of equipment and staff shortages are posing serious challenges to transporting patients and cleaning which could have “serious implications” for patient safety.
It is now undertaking a consultative ballot for action over what it calls Sodexo’s failure to deal with staff concerns.
It says staff at the Royal Sussex County 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 Sodexo’s attention by GMB members over 12 months ago but the company has taken no action to address these concerns.
These are is the latest problems on this contract since Sodexo took it over in December 2012 covering 700 staff who provide cleaning, catering, portering, linen and grounds maintenance at the hospitals.
Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser, said “Portering, cleaning and housekeeping are in crisis on this contract.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
A spokeswoman for Sodexo said: “Patient safety is our number one priority. We are working closely with the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust to maximise availability of wheelchairs, trolleys and beds and have received additional new equipment in recent weeks.
“Cleaning cloths and mops are laundered each day and sufficient stocks provided to team members on a daily basis.
“There is a contingent stock of disposable cloths to meet any periods of increased demand or supply shortage.
“We review service levels with the trust on a regular basis to ensure they meet the agreed standards and there are no patient safety concerns from the trust at this time.”
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