THE board of the Gloucestershire NHS trust which runs the county’s biggest hospitals has approved controversial proposals to set up a subsidiary company (SubCo) to employ almost 700 of its staff.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chiefs say the move will help them deliver necessary savings.

But it has drawn criticism from campaigners and Stroud MP David Drew who said that it was “a first step towards fragmentation and privatisation of our NHS”.

Following the board’s agreement, the SubCo will come into force on April 1 and include staff from the trust’s estates, sterile services and materials management departments.

Peter Lachecki, trust chairman, said: “A key characteristic of this subsidiary company is that it will continue to serve the NHS and patients at the trust’s hospitals.

“This new way of working will allow the new organisation to concentrate on delivering valuable support services to our hospitals that are more innovative and responsive to the staff and patients who they support, resulting in a workforce that is even more engaged and satisfied.”

Trust chief executive, Deborah Lee, added: “We recognise that for those affected this has been an anxious time.

“Staff told us that they place huge value on being part of the NHS and are concerned that this move ends this important connection.

“We have been able to reassure staff that this new organisation will be wholly owned by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust and staff will continue to support and work alongside all of their current NHS colleagues, delivering or supporting care to NHS patients.

“Very importantly, they will retain their current terms and conditions, including their NHS pension and access to other benefits NHS staff enjoy.”