‘Time will tell’

Serco, the company which has taken over community care services in Suffolk, has asked patients to judge its changes to services in six months time.

Sudbury people and town officials filled the town hall on Thursday for a question-and-answer session with Serco representatives.

Sharon Colclough, director of community services, outlined Serco’s plans to centralise administration in a 24-hour call centre at Ipswich, expand service hours from eight to 12 hours a day and introduce mobile technology for frontline staff to improve efficiency.

“Our vision is to deliver new and innovative community services,” said Mrs Colclough. “We want to be proactive and respond to what our communities need.”

She explained that the call centre was designed to “release the time” nurses and therapists currently spend on administrative duties. Changes to the services would be made over time.

“We don’t want to do anything that isn’t safe or will cause harm. We are making sure we do every step correctly before we move to the next one,” said Mrs Colclough.

Residents asked questions of the representatives for around 90 minutes, with many focusing on Serco’s responsibilities to its shareholders as a private company as well as the planned reduction of up to 90 full-time jobs, of which 25 will be compulsory redundancies.

Jack Owen, Sudbury mayor, said: “You can’t expect the public to be confident you will provide a better service, I don’t believe privatisation is the best way of doing that.”

Mrs Colclough said: “When we come back in six months time and show you how much it has made a difference, then you can believe me.”

Tony Bavington, district councillor for Great Cornard, said he had found the NHS to be fragmented in dealing with mental health services and he hoped Serco could reduce this problem –while also criticising the use of buzzwords.