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Suffolk: Mental health trust plans to axe 500 jobs

PUBLISHED: 09:23 23 October 2012

Aidan Thomas, chief executive of the mental health trust

Aidan Thomas, chief executive of the mental health trust

Archant

ONE in five frontline jobs at the county’s mental health trust are set to be axed.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is planning to shed 500 front-line jobs and 20% of its inpatient beds over the next four years.

In Suffolk 177 jobs from a pool of around 821 will be cut.

The trust said the proposals are part of radical redesign by clinicians in response to a tough NHS efficiency drive which means it has to cut five per cent of its budget every year for the next few years.

While the trust says it is hopeful that it will not have to make any compulsory redundancies, and that inpatient beds will only be axed when there is evidence they are no longer needed, concerns have today been raised over the impact the changes could have on staff and patients.

A union has also blasted the Government for forcing the trust to make the cuts as part of a drive to save £20bn across the entire NHS.

Trust chief executive Aidan Thomas said instead of having managers trying to “cut out a bit here and a bit there”, they instead asked 250 clinicians to lead a radical redesign of services.

He said: “Most of what we spend is on people and a 20pc reduction in costs over four years probably means about a 20pc reduction in staff.

“We are making a commitment that we will try to avoid compulsory redundancies.”

The trust employs around 4,500 staff, but the redesign only involves a pool of around 2,130 workers.

It has been keeping vacancies open and as of the end of August this year has to cut another 247 jobs by the end of March 2016.

It hopes to do this through natural wastage, voluntary redundancies and through re-training staff for any other available posts.

The trust has now entered into a 90-day consultation with staff. It is also pledging that when inpatient beds are cut that each of its five areas where beds are based will continue to have beds for adult patients of all ages.

Jeff Keighley, Unison’s Suffolk mental health regional organiser, said: “We are not in dispute with the trust about this, they are having to do it because they have got no choice and they are trying to do it in the right way.

“They are not being funded to provide a good quality service.

“It’s the scale of the cuts that is the problem and if we didn’t have this costly restructure of the NHS too, we wouldn’t be cutting it the way we are.”

Mr Thomas said the redesign will look at how preventative measures could be put in place to stop patients from becoming very ill or getting to a point of crisis, as well as using treatments which give patients more choice and control over their life.

He also said too many patients were being admitted to wards when in fact they could have been treated in the community.

Ben Gummer, MP for Ipswich, said: “I have had assurances that the quality of front-line services will be maintained but I am still concerned about these proposals as mental health care in Suffolk is already well behind were it should be.

“We should be looking to have improvements rather than just standing still.

That doesn’t necessarily mean more staff but it does man a clear vision for he trust and I will be looking closer at their proposals.”

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