UNION members of the borough's hospital trust have voted to strike over the decision to outsource departments to a new company in May.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) Unison members took part in a consultative ballot with 93 per cent of them voting in favour of taking industrial action about the move.

It is thought around 900 NHS staff members, who work in the estates and facilities departments across the trust's three hospital's, could be affected when the business, WWL Solutions Ltd, is set up.

There are concerns staff members terms and conditions could be cut and new starters will be on less pay and pensions as well as being moved to a private sector company.

Unison North West regional organiser Sean Gibson said: “The consultative ballot result shows the deep concern of staff about these damaging proposals.

“Good quality catering, cleaning and portering services are all crucial to the efficient operation of the hospitals and to the experience of patients.

"The staff performing these roles form a key part of the NHS team and they should remain in the direct employment of the trust – not pushed away into an outsourced separate company.

“The bosses’ plans are designed to cut costs at the expense of staff and could lead to back door privatisation.

"We don’t want the likes of a Carillion or a Capita to be getting more involved in our NHS.

“We will move now to a formal ballot on strike action.

"At the same time, we will continue negotiations with the trust and will be pressing them to change their plans.”

There were 79 per cent of the trust's Unison members who took part in the vote.

If it took place in a formal ballot, the union would have legal authority for its members to strike.

A spokesman from WWL said last week: "WWL Solutions Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary company of Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) with the sole intention of continuing to deliver exemplary support services to the Trust and facilitating the best patient care.

“The creation of WWL Solutions Ltd enables the expansion of services to other public and private organisations.

“The company is 100 per cent owned by the trust.

“WWL Solutions has been created as a more appropriate alternative to cutting both jobs and services with the company continuing to provide the same services on behalf of the trust and, in doing so, will reduce the overall cost to the trust and avoids privatisation of NHS services.”