THE laundry service at Salisbury District Hospital could be turned into a private company, raising concerns over conditions for existing staff.

Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust Board is proposing to set up a private company, but still under the ownership of the trust, to run the service.

The hospital said the move would provide greater flexibility and efficiency, allowing the department to compete with the private sector.

Staff are currently being consulted on whether they move to the new company under national rules governing terms and conditions or remain as trust employees seconded to the new company.

Mark Wareham, of public service union Unison, said although he is waiting to see the business case, he is concerned that the move could be happening to make savings on staff costs as staff moving to the new company will no longer be direct NHS employees.

“In that case they are more vulnerable to changes to pay and conditions for existing staff and new starters,” said Mr Wareham.

A spokesman for the hospital said: “The laundry already provides services to three other large NHS organisations, as well as Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust and other customers. The quality of the services provided by the laundry is good and the aim is to build on this customer satisfaction through these changes.”

It is understood that if the proposals go ahead, the transfer to the private company could happen towards the end of this year.

• HOSPITAL staff are soon to find out the outcome of a consultation to decide whether or not they could be forced to wash their own soiled scrubs at home.

The Journal ran a story about the proposals last year, when staff raised concerns about the spread of infection. The hospital wants to improve the quality of staff uniforms but says the new scrubs will be more expensive and nurses, midwives and ward staff will need to launder them, saving the cost of cleaning them in the hospital’s own laundry.

The consultation period ended last year and a hospital spokesman said staff will find out the outcome in the next few weeks.