Dismay as hospital faces more job cuts

A UNION has reacted with dismay after it was revealed one of the region's busiest hospitals overspent by £7million last year - and could not rule out job losses as a result.

A UNION has reacted with dismay after it was revealed one of the region's busiest hospitals overspent by £7million last year - and could not rule out job losses as a result.

Andrew Reed, chief executive of Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, yesterday announced it had misjudged its level of income for the financial year 2005/06 - bringing the overall deficit faced by the cash strapped body to £11.9m.

The news came on the same day trust chairman Christine Smart said she would step down from her post when her four-year term ends on July 1.

Mr Reed said the final figures for 05/06 showed the hospital had overspent by £7m during the year creating a total deficit of £11.9m when added to the £4.9m debt from previous years.

In order to recover the debt and not overspend this year, the hospital is aiming to make savings of around £20m in 06/07.

As a result there will have to be a review of services and although Mr Reed promised to limit the impact of redundancies he could not rule them out.

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Last month the hospital announced it would be looking to cut 105 posts across the board but it was hoped most of these would be through natural wastage.

Union officials have been dismayed by the news and feel it will be workers who suffer most following the latest news.

Ann Glover, regional officer for Unison, said: “We've known for some time the hospital has been facing a deficit but it smacks of incompetence the trust didn't know it had overspent by £7million.

“It is their job to ensure the budgets are managed effectively and efficiently and it beggars belief they can suddenly find his figure.

“It fills us with dismay because it is not the fault of our workers but at the end of the day it will be them who will lose out when the job cuts are made.”

However Prue Rush, of the Ipswich Hospital Patient Public Forum, said it was unfair to blame the hospital for the shortfall.

“I don't think we should start lambasting the management because it was not a wilful overspend,” she said. “It is because the government is demanding a full repayment of the deficit within the year and this is unrealistic.

“Because they now have to find another £7m it unfortunately means there will be more cuts which have been forced upon them and as a result patients and staff will suffer.”

Speaking yesterday, Mr Reed said some of the £7m shortfall was because of around £5m worth of income that had failed to materialise from a range of areas including service agreements with primary care trusts.

“It is a real blow but the critical issue is to understand why there is such a variance between what we projected and the actual position,” he said. “As a result we have decided to commission external consultants to look into that and report back to us.

“We expect the report to give us recommendations about how we can tighten up processes across the board.

“Around 70% of costs are staff and if the hospital reduces services we have to look at staff costs. However we want to protect people as far as we can and minimise redundancies but we have never been able to guarantee they won't happen.

“At the same time it is important to protect services for local people and we will fulfil our core functions to the standard patients would expect.

“We shouldn't lose site of the fact the hospital is performing much better than it was last year, particularly around key government targets relating to waiting times, cancer treatment and diagnosis and infection control.”

The report from the consultants is expected to be available by early to mid June so it can be discussed at a board meeting in July.

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