Care Plus Group chief reveals why changes are necessary
More than 800 staff employed by the Care Plus Group – which provides adult health and social care across North East Lincolnshire – are in consultation over cuts to their pay and conditions.
In an exclusive interview, Grimsby Telegraph health reporter KATIE BLACKBURN speaks to Lance Gardner, chief executive of the organisation, as he reassures staff and patients about the proposed changes and explains why these cuts are needed.
Q Do you think the 28-day consultation process is a fair amount of time considering the cuts proposed?
A Some would have expected us to hold the standard 90-day consultation but, by law, we were not required to, as no job losses are planned.
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These 28 days have been set out to look over everything proposed and give staff the chance to have their say.
There has been a high response from staff, which was to be expected. People are not happy – I am not happy about all this. There are a lot of mixed views over these proposals. Everyone understands why we have to do it, but not all agree with it. We have tried to protect jobs through all this. Our care to staff is paramount despite everything.
Q What happens next after the consultation period ends on Monday, February 4?
A Senior management will get together for a couple of days and look over all the feedback from staff and members of the Unite union.
We will asses all the areas proposed to see if there are things we can do in a different way, taking into consideration what staff have said.
If in agreement, we will look to start enforcing the proposals from June 1. Changes made will be staggered over the year.
Q How are you reassuring your staff over these planned changes?
A We sent out a letter to all staff announcing these proposals at the beginning of the month.
Since then, regular meetings have been held where they can hear from myself and Unite, one-on-one sessions have taken place and pages on our staff website have been created giving them plenty of information.
There has been a good response to all of this. We log all questions and have been very open and transparent.
What we want to stress is there are no cuts to staff's basic wages.
Q In addition to staff, how are you reassuring your patients, who may fear their care could be put at risk?
A We deliver a quality service – the best in the area – and I don't want to compromise that.
I do not understand how providing the same number of services and the same number of staff will impact on care. We would not let that happen.
There is a lot of goodwill here. Our staff go that extra mile for their patients and have a passion for caring. They would not want to see them suffer. I do not want to take our goodwill for granted.
Q The Care Plus Group was only formed in July 2011 and it seems cuts have been ongoing since. How has this affected the organisation?
A When we planned to become a social enterprise, we had no idea these would be the type of cuts needed for us to carry on providing a high quality service.
National funding reductions and an increase in general costs due to inflation, have left us with no choice but to make drastic changes.
What people forget is that half our work is for the council and not all NHS focused. Cuts are being made in these services, too, so it is tough for us all.
Since we set up 18 months ago, we have made £1.6 million worth of savings.
Luckily, we have done the majority of this through our efficiency savings, such as selling off estates.
However, we have nearly exhausted this and what we can still save is not satisfactory.
That is why we took the difficult decision to alter staff's terms and conditions.
We have another £800,000 to £1 million worth of savings to come this financial year.
We are trained to put plans in place to save future services and to save the jobs of our staff.
Q It has been announced that more cuts will happen in future years. Can you guarantee jobs will still be safe?
A I can not make any promises at this early stage. We can only deal with what we have in front of us now.
I promised staff I would not come to them regarding cutbacks unless it was completely necessary and as a means to protect jobs.
I believe I have stuck to that promise but I will soon run out of other options if this continues.
Q Unite said you are trying to "railroad" through these changes to their members' contracts. What is your response to this?
A Unite is doing the best it can to protect its members during this difficult time.
I have great respect for it and we work closely together.
Q These cuts aside, how do you think your organisation is doing?
A Our performance is the best around.
Despite already saving £1.6 million, we are doing more work and seeing more patients.
During Christmas for example, we did not shut. Our service is constant and that will not change.
Whoever needs care in the community will get it.
On Thursday, January 24, we recorded 11,115 patients across North East Lincolnshire were currently being dealt with by our staff, for various reasons.
We are looking in the future to work in partnership with similar organisations to see how we can keep costs down while maintaining a quality service.