GREATER Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is "disappointed" the borough's hospital trust has decided to press ahead with plans to transfer jobs to a new private NHS company.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust's (WWL) board of directors met last Wednesday before opting to transfer a range of jobs across to WWL Solutions Limited on August 1.

The move affects staff employed in positions such as cleaners, caterers and porters.

There are fears that when jobs are transferred from the trust to WWL Solutions Limited then employees could be more vulnerable to pay cuts and changes to their contract.

Hospital staff have taken part in a six-day strike by Unite, and a five-day strike by Unison which ended this morning, Tuesday

Mr Burnham said: “I am disappointed that the trust has decided to press ahead with the creation of WWL Solutions Ltd in the face of such strong opposition from staff.

“Although the Trust was able to make a number of guarantees around pay, terms and conditions, and pensions, it is clear that staff want to remain directly employed by the NHS both now and in the longer term.

“Staff are proud to work for the NHS.

"Indeed, many of them do the jobs they do, working long hours and regularly going the extra mile, precisely because they work for the NHS.

“I fully appreciate the financial pressure that trusts like WWL are under.

"But, since this proposal was first put forward, the Government has indicated that a new financial settlement for the NHS will soon be brought forward.

“I would therefore urge the trust, even at this late stage, to put this proposal on hold and review it in the light of the changed financial context.

"I have discussed this with Peter Smith, Chair of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, and we both ask the trust to consider the impact this is having on local patients and to re-engage in talks with staff to find a solution.”

The trust has made the decision as part of plans to save £14.5m this year.

Last week, a WWL spokesman said: "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.

"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 and 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.

"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."