A UNION representative working with Great Western Hospital staff claimed they were resisting a plan to extend shift times at a private suite.

Unison south west representative Roger Davey said: "Management suggested that the operating hours of the private Shalbourne unit could be extended by two hours to 8.30pm, which would lead to staff being dedicated to private patients for longer.

"Theatre staff are resisting this disgraceful proposition and we will ballot for industrial action to fight against this."

A GWH spokesman said: “The Shalbourne Suite is part of the trust and provides both inpatient and outpatient services for privately funded and NHS funded patients. This service helps generate £1.2m of additional funds which are reinvested back into NHS services. This is the equivalent funding to running a large ward for around a year.

“The trust has 15 theatres in the main department of the hospital and we have recently consulted with theatre staff and Unison representatives on extending shift times from from Monday to Thursday in two of these theatres.

"We have met with Unison representatives throughout this process.”

“We are committed to hearing the views of staff and have a confidential Freedom to Speak Up service which encourages staff at every level to raise any concerns they have in the workplace.

"A team of trusted staff can then work with individuals to look at addressing the concerns”

Mr Davey added: “There’s no comparison between the NHS when I joined 30 years ago and the NHS now, it’s so different. Foundation trusts and all these directors and management consultants have fragmented it almost beyond recognition.

“We want to kick out every private company involved in the NHS and bring it back to the public because this situation at the moment is leading to a two-tier system of care."