The NHS has kick-started contingency plans to keep services for hospital patients maintained following the collapse of Carillion.
Carillion’s healthcare portfolio was responsible for preparing more than 18,500 patient meals a day. It was also responsible for 200 operating theatres, 300 critical care beds and just under 11,500 in-patient beds.
NHS Improvement said the contingency plans, held at a national level by NHS England and NHS Improvement and locally by individual trusts and private sector partners, had “been in preparation for some months”.
It deployed staff to six of the largest sites to offer assistance, however the “vast majority” of Carillion staff turned up to work as normal.
An NHS Improvement spokesperson said in a statement: “While the NHS isn’t a particularly large customer of Carillion plc, we have a duty to maintain safe, high quality services for our patients. That’s why we’ve been working with trusts and with private sector providers to have extensive contingency plans in place.
“That these plans have worked well is a tribute to the tireless work by NHS staff and by staff employed by Carillion, who have put huge amounts of effort in at what is a very difficult time for them.”
It said that 14 trusts received services from Carillion including 13 which were subcontracted by a PFI provider to operate facilities management services, three which held direct contracts with with the firm and a number of smaller primary and community care properties with services provided by Carillion.
The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) believes that James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough; Roseberry Park Hospital, Middlesbrough; Southmead Hospital, North Bristol; Great Western Hospital, Swindon; Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth; Harplands Hospital, North Staffordshire; and the Midland Met and Royal Liverpool which is currently under construction are among those affected.
The voluntary organisation is encouraging hospital caterers to get in touch with concerns “regarding the safe and continuous delivery of hospital patient meals.”
HCA chairman, Stewart McKenzie said: “The announcement regarding the collapse of Carillion PLC has been met with shock and great sadness. Our thoughts go out to all of our members, suppliers, patients and hospital caterers nationwide who may be affected. The HCA’s highest priority is the patient and the delivery of nutritious and safe food within hospitals.
“Diet significantly affects our health, therefore nutrition and hydration is an important part of the hospital care package and has a substantial impact on patient’s recovery and wellbeing. As well as being responsible for patient food, our members and hospital caterers are also responsible for the meal provision of 1.3million health service staff that work within the NHS. We recognise that interruption to the level of service provided can have a significant impact on our patients, staff and visitors, therefore the HCA encourages our members or any hospital caterer that has been affected by today’s announcement to get in touch if they would like to discuss concerns regarding the safe and continuous delivery of hospital patient meals.”
Alongside hospital meals, Carillion’s catering arm Food & More served 32,000 meals a day to pupils at more than 200 schools.
Carillion ran into trouble after losing money on big contracts and running up debts of about £1.5b. The Official Receiver has been appointed by the court as liquidator along with partners at PwC, appointed as special managers.
Carillion bosses now face investigation. Business secretary Greg Clark said: “It is important we quickly get the full picture of the events which caused Carillion to enter liquidation, which is why I have asked the Insolvency Service to fast-track and broaden the scope of the Official Receiver’s investigation.
“In particular, I have asked that the investigation looks not only at the conduct of the directors at the point of its insolvency, but also of any individuals who were previously directors. Any evidence of misconduct will be taken very seriously.”
Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell told Sky News that Clark’s call for an investigation comes “so late” as he accused the government of “drip-feeding” contracts to keep Carillion afloat.
“Government ministers seem to have colluded in a strategy where, even when they know the company was in trouble, when the company’s share price was collapsing and there were profit warnings and resignation [they] still drip-fed this company with public contracts.” He said.