WITHIN days of taking over prison healthcare in the region, a private firm has confirmed there are expected to be significant job losses.

In a document seen by The Northern Echo, Care UK, the large private healthcare company recently awarded a £53m contract to run prison healthcare in the North-East, has revealed a restructuring plan which will affect 116 out of about 400 employees.

The former NHS staff, which include a number of nurses, provide healthcare services to about 5,000 inmates at prisons and young offender centres across the North-East.

In January, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was scandalous that a private company that won a big prison health contract by undercutting the existing NHS provider was considering making staff redundant.

Last night, Glenn Turp, Northern regional officer for the RCN, said: “Our worst predictions have come true.

“Sure enough, Care UK is proposing to slash and burn its way through the front-line workforce.

“The RCN has been warning about the risks to this NHS service from this private company for months now.

“The document blows a hole in the myth that the NHS is in safe hands. Let’s be clear: the front line is not protected.”

A spokeswoman for Care UK said: “We will not be making a quarter of the staff redundant.

“Staff have been placed at risk because a proportion of jobs at their grade may change significantly or disappear.

However, in order to comply with employment law and in the interests of transparency, it is necessary to inform any member of staff who may be at risk and to treat those staff equitably.

“Inevitably this means that substantially more staff are put at risk than may lose their jobs.

“The number of posts which may have to be lost is not yet finalised as consultation on the design of the service has only just commenced, but it will be significantly less than the numbers of staff at risk.

“The majority of the posts identified as at risk are not front-line clinical staff, but are back office and management roles. The economies of scale offered by running eight prisons as a cluster, the advent of new technology and innovative ways of working allow for efficiencies to be made.”