Wigan Infirmary moving forward after NHS row

David Evans
David Evans

NHS headlines in the borough last year were dominated by a long dispute, including strike days, over the creation of a subsidiary company.

Now, after the unpopular WWL Solutions was axed, health bosses are facing up to the task of bringing the estates and facilities department in under budget.

The majorindustrial row came to an end when it was guaranteed that porters, cleaners, transport drivers and a host of other vital roles, would remain fully part of the NHS.

Instead the council offered one-off financial support to Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Trust to stave off future cash troubles by investing in services.

NHS bosses are currently working on the £1.5m of savings estates and facilities has to find in 2018-19 and it has required a fair few changes, including controversial ones such as increasing car parking charges.

The reform process is not over either as the Trust will probably face further cost challenges on April 1.

David Evans, WWL associate director of estates, said: “Last year was a very difficult and challenging time for us and we are now looking at the efficiency savings we need while minimising the impact on clinical services, our patients and our staff.

“We’ve had to slightly increase our parking charges but we recognise this is a very difficult, emotive subject. We don’t just take lots of money from parking, most of it goes into covering costs.

“We’ve found more work for our catering team, supplying the NHS, private sector firms and the local authority.

“We’ve kept some vacancies back and redesigned some services without impacting on staff and patients. We haven’t made anyone compulsorily redundant. We’re doing this through natural wastage and moving people around and giving them other opportunities in the Trust.

“We’re also working this year on energy conservation. “We’ve already got a combined heat and powewr unit at Leigh Infirmary and a scheme at Wrightington.

“We also want to expand our use of LED lighting and install a combined heat and power system in Wigan.

“We’re now thinking about 2019-20 and already have a bid in to the NHS Energy Fund.”

Mr Evans said one of the most important tasks has been to rebuild relationships with the estates and facilities staff.

He said: “There was a great deal of division last year. What we are trying to do is very tactfully re-engage with staff to get the message across about where we are now and what we are doing going forward.

“In our most recent staff survey there wasn’t a single negative comment about the subsidiary company, which shows people have moved on.”

The council also struck an optimistic note about the Trust’s future after WWL Solutions.

Paul McKevitt, deputy chief executive, said: “We continue to work closely with the hospital and are glad we found a way forward together which benefits staff and patients.

“Thanks to the success of The Deal over the years, the council is in a much better financial position and as a result, we are able to work more closely with partners through the Healthier Wigan Partnership to improve health standards and reduce demand on services.

“In line with the Greater Manchester health work, the council and WWL can jointly invest in community services to develop a model that can balance the health budget.

“The money will help the hospital to invest in transforming services, resulting in future savings.”