Home help services in the north west are to go to tender within weeks in a multi-million pound contract.
The Western Health and Social Care Trust has now confirmed that it is about to go to tender for the provision of homecare services across the region.
It is thought the contract could be in the region of £13m, but the Trust has been unable to confirm the finalised figure as yet.
As of last August there were 570 local elderly and disabled people receiving home help care in Derry and the wider western area from 230 Home Helps employed directly by the Trust.
A spokeswoman for the Western Trust however has now confirmed that the arrangements are about to change. She said that the Trust has now given notice of its intention to go to tender through the Official Journal of the European Union.
“The WHSCT intend to carry out a tendering exercise in relation to the procurement for the Provision of Domicillary Care Services in the Western Health and Social Care Trust area,” she said. “It is estimated that the tender opportunity will be published in the last quarter of 2014/15. Interested Tenders are advised to view the e-Sourcing NI website where the tender opportunity will be advertised.”
The contract value “will be declared in the Tender documentation, when the Tender is advertised,” she added.
The Trust plans were revealed by regional organiser from UNISON, Joe McCusker, after he met with Trust bosses over cuts to services.
Addressing a public meeting at the Maldron Hotel in Derry last week, he said: “They are going to outsource a contract for £13.2m for home care services in the Western Trust to the private sector.”
Mr McCusker claimed that this would result in a lower standard of care from poorly-paid, private sector workers.
In August last year the Western Trust said it was implementing “the reform and modernisation of its Domiciliary Care Services as part of the wider Transforming Your Care (TYC) Programme”.
A spokeswoman added: “There are three strands to the Trust Homecare TYC reform, the development of Reablement, the completion of the reform of the in-house domiciliary care service and the re-tendering of independent sector homecare provision.”