Another 26 beds cut at hospital
HEALTH chiefs have announced that a further 26 beds will be axed at a leading Suffolk hospital in a bid to save around £600,000.West Suffolk Hospitals Trust has to rid itself of £12million of debt by March 2008 and cover a projected £1.
HEALTH chiefs have announced that a further 26 beds will be axed at a leading Suffolk hospital in a bid to save around £600,000.
West Suffolk Hospitals Trust has to rid itself of £12million of debt by March 2008 and cover a projected £1.27m overspend by the end of the current financial year.
Yesterday the trust announced the latest bed cuts, which are in its gynaecological and orthopaedic services. The bed losses come in the wake of 55 bed closures made last year.
Talks with staff and unions about the changes are now underway but health bosses have pledged to keep redundancies to a minimum.
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Ron Fynn, Unison shop steward at West Suffolk Hospital, said news of bed closures came as a blow to staff and many hospital workers now fear where the next cuts will be made.
There will be 14 bed losses at West Suffolk Hospital's gynaecological inpatient service, which is being moved from the 21-bed F10 ward to a seven-bed unit in ward F12.
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And the number of beds for the orthopaedic surgery service in ward F4 will be cut from 33 to 21.
Mr Fynn said all staff at the hospital accepted that savings had to be made if the trust was to survive.
But he added: “Looking around the room when we were informed, there was gloom and morale was reasonably low.
“I appreciate the management telling us there will be no forced redundancies and they have said there are other jobs available because of the vacancy freeze.
“We have got to save money but at the end of the day nursing and ancillary staff have no control over the finances. We do our jobs as best we can.
“Most of us are asking what is coming next. We also worry about the fact that we scraped through the last winter crisis by the skin of our teeth. What will happen next year?”
Trust chief executive Chris Bown said: “We have been freezing posts and managing our vacancies to minimise the impact on staff and it is our intention to re-deploy as many members of staff as possible.
“A staff consultation about the changes started this week and we have also been talking with trade union representatives.”
The trust claims the changes will have little impact on patient care because of moves to expand its day surgery, which will allow those needing procedures to be seen and treated without an overnight stay.
Mr Fynn said things could be done more efficiently but warned the trust against “going too far too fast.”
Trust managers are also planning patients' stays in hospital as soon as they are admitted, allowing out-of-hospital treatment to be put in place quicker, meaning patients can leave hospital sooner.
A four week consultation period between hospital management and staff is now underway.