A controversial new firm which has been at the centre of a bitter row has received the backing of the board of Wigan's hospitals.
The trust board of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust has this afternoon approved plans for the wholly-owned company WWL Solutions.
Tempers boiled over as the controversial subsidiary firm was given the go-ahead by hospital bosses.
The decision was made amid staff on strike today, five days of industrial action starting tomorrow and huge opposition to the plan among MPs and leading councillors.
Trust bosses want to move almost 900 estates and facilities employees, including porters, cleaners, caterers, transport workers and switchboard operators, to the new firm, which is along the lines of a model introduced in Gateshead.
There were angry scenes at the board meeting of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust as the wholly-owned company received the green light.
Staff and trade union representatives who had packed the room walked out shouting "shame" following the decision.
The board heard WWL Solutions was the best way for bosses to meet the Trust's savings targets choir protecting jobs and care standards.
Members tried to reassure the meeting repeatedly that employees' pay, terms and conditions were all protected.
However, during public questions the mood grew ugly with furious blasts about WWL's consultations and the new set-up.
A five-day strike will start tomorrow morning.
Afterwards the unions pledged to fight on.
A spokesman for the WWL board said: "Having carefully considered each of the four options available; Establish WWL Solutions, Outsourcing, Reduce Headcount or Do Nothing, the Board of Directors has made their decision to move forward in creating WWL Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary company based on what is best for our staff and our patients. With this in mind, Estates & Facilities (E&F) and Procurement staff will TUPE transfer over to the new company on August 1, 2018.
"As always, patient safety is our number one priority and this decision protects both the Trust’s financial stability and jobs. WWL Solutions will be owned entirely by the Trust and we believe this is the best way to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality services.
"WWL Solutions staff will continue to be part of the WWL family, but creating this wholly owned company places us on a level playing field with the private sector. This means that WWL Solutions can grow by securing new business and providing more opportunities for our E&F and Procurement staff. It will also generate significant savings for the Trust, without affecting the pay, pension or terms and conditions for any of the staff who transfer.
"The Trust must save £14.5m this year. If the planned savings are not generated from WWL Solutions, they would have to have been found in other ways. Most importantly, jobs will be protected by creating WWL Solutions meaning that the Trust can continue to provide the highest quality support services that we are all so proud of."
More to follow.