Cuts will have a major impact

PUBLISHED: 11:54 29 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:23 06 May 2010

Oliver Heald

Oliver Heald

UNION leaders have described a hospital trust s plans to cut 500 jobs and close as many as three wards as a devastating blow . East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which is already heavily in debt, has been faced with more pressure after prima- ry car

Peter Lilley

UNION leaders have described a hospital trust's plans to cut 500 jobs and close as many as three wards as a "devastating blow".

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which is already heavily in debt, has been faced with more pressure after prima-

ry care trusts, also suffering from financial difficulties, are seeking to buy fewer services from Lister Hospital and other hospitals cutting the Trust's income.

Geoff Reason, of Unison described the news as a "devastating blow" to patients and staff.

Barbara Follett

He said: "Cuts on this scale will have a major impact on patient care and fewer patients will be treated as a result."

Anne Wells, chairman of the Staffside Trade Union, said: "We are extremely disappointed it has come to this. We are working with the management to explore other options. The Government has to take some of the blame for this."

More details will be known on July 26 but the Trust hopes natural wastage and voluntary redundancies will mean fewer compulsory redundancies.

The Trust will eliminate vacant posts, stop providing services where PCTs do not meet the full costs and pursue existing projects which will result in a reduction in staff - for example merging medical record departments and medical transcription outsourcing.

The Trust is also reviewing the number of beds that it needs. By September it will look to close the equivalent of two to three wards between its two main hospitals, the Lister and QEII.

Nick Carver, The Trust's chief executive, said: "Developments within the local health service in recent weeks mean that the level of cost reduction that the Trust has to make this year has all but doubled to £18m.

"While that is out of an overall budget of some £267m, the Trust is already pursuing a highly challenging programme of clinical and non-clinical efficiency savings activities.

"It is not possible this far into the year for the Trust to identify and pursue options other than headcount and bed reductions, as basically few, if any, alternatives exist. In saying that, however, the Trust will seek to reduce the number of posts and beds that it funds in ways that make the most of the opportunities available to maintain patient care, while at the same time minimising the number of potential redundancies."

He went on to say it was an "extremely difficult" decision to make but it had to be done.

Over the next few weeks the Trust will work out which posts will go and which beds and wards will be affected.

Oliver Heald, MP for North Herts, said: "I am shocked that ministers have ignored our pleas for help and allowed this devastating set of cuts.

"I have personally asked Patricia Hewitt MP to intervene and have contacted other ministers, but to no avail.

"The loss of frontline doctors and nurses is very worrying for local residents. I have spoken to Nick Carver about these proposals and it seems that the Trust is between a rock and a hard place.

"I will continue to press for fair funding for our area. It's not like this in traditional Labour areas. The cuts are being forced on areas like ours."

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley said: "This is very grim news indeed for the NHS in North Hertfordshire. In the whole time I have been in Parliament I have never known our local NHS face such severe financial pressures.

"Over the next three years the Trust has to cut its cost base by nearly a quarter - making cuts of £66million out of its present budget of £267 million. Even if part of that will involve transferring staff and resources to the new privately run surgicentre alongside the Lister, the scale of the cost reductions required in our local area will require going much further even than this initial 500 job losses and closure of three wards."

He said unless a fairer share of NHS revenues is given to Hertfordshire he believes the Trust's management will start talking about closing hospitals.

Stevenage MP Barbara Follett said: "Sadly, it [the Trust] has made so many efficiency savings over the past few months that, if they want their books to balance, they have no alternative but to start reducing the number of people they employ.

"I am in very close touch with the Trust and its managers and they assure me that they will do all they can to avoid compulsory redundancies.

"The 500 jobs that they fear that they will have to cut will include some which are, currently, vacant.

"These may not, depending upon a rigorous assessment of the impact this could have on patient safety, be filled. My number one priority is to make sure that patient care is not affected as a result of these proposals. I know that it is the Trust's too.

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