UNIONS have welcomed a hospital’s decision to take back control of cleaning, catering and portering services.

Private firm Sodexo was awarded a £15 million a year contract to provide the services at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust in December 2012.

However it has been beset with problems from the start, including not giving staff their proper wages for four weeks over Christmas and the threat of industrial action the company’s failure to pay the living wage.

Last year the GMB union raised concerns about safety because of a lack of basic equipment such as working wheelchairs and trolleys and mops and cleaning cloths.

Concerns over cleaning standards and the risk of cross-infection have also been highlighted.

Sodexo yesterday confirmed the five year contract was ending early on July 31 by “mutual agreement” with the trust.

Staff currently employed by Sodexo will be transferred to the trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

GMB organiser Gary Palmer said: “We have always been clear from day one that we wanted to see all services provided by Sodexo returned in-house and to the NHS where they should be.

“We have been made aware of on-going issues with the service provision for some time through GMB representatives on the NHS staff side forums.

“We will be arranging to meet with members and concerned staff over the coming months to ensure their best interests are maintained throughout the process and that any specific concerns are answered.”

Brighton and Sussex chief executive Matthew Kershaw said the trust would be exploring whether lessons could be learned from the decision to outsource services and would be working to make the transfer back as seamless as possible.

He said: “A transfer of this size and complexity is a huge undertaking and there will inevitably be some challenges along the way.

“It is though, the right thing to do at this point in time for everyone involved and for the organisation as a whole.”

Sodexo said the decision was made due to “changed priorities” making the contract no longer workable but would not give any further details.

It would also not comment further on the issues of pay, safety concerns raised over equipment and cleanliness standards.

Human resources director for Sodexo’s healthcare division, Greg Austin, said: “Employees have been informed of the decision and will be communicated and consulted with appropriately.”