HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition against plans to set up a new company to provide maintenance services at York Hospital.

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is exploring the possibility of setting up a limited liability company, which could impact 979 staff in the facilities and estates department, which includes cleaners, porters and maintenance technicians.

The petition was set up by the Defend Our NHS York campaign group and has already gathered 650 signatures.

The group believes if a company is set up to run the services, it would signal a step towards privatisation.

Anne Leonard, a founding member of Defend Our NHS York, said: "The petition's objective was to alert people to what is going on.

"We aren't against change as such, but we are against change that means privatisation.

"We want to let people know about it and give them an opportunity to have their say.

"It will also mean a likely reduction in working conditions.

"We will get a poorer service and staff will be working with poorer conditions and pay.

"There's the risk that the service will be badly done and it could lead to infections in the hospital.

"There's no way that a private company would run them more effectively than they are being run in-house."

The Press has reported previously on the concerns of staff, who are worried their NHS terms and conditions, including pensions and sick pay, will end if a new company employs them, despite the trust owning and running it.

A spokeswoman for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: "No decisions have been made, however if we choose to progress this option, then there will be full consultation with all affected staff.

"Other trusts that have taken this step have benefitted from securing their estates and facilities services for the longer term, and the preservation of staff terms and conditions.

"This is an underlying principle in our discussions."