Hospital criticised over finance post

CASH-STRAPPED Ipswich Hospital wants to recruit a new finance manager at a cost of up to £42,000 - just weeks after outlining plans to slash nurses' posts.

CASH-STRAPPED Ipswich Hospital wants to recruit a new finance manager at a cost of up to £42,000 - just weeks after outlining plans to slash nurses' posts.

Last night health campaigners in the county questioned the move, calling for the trust to clarify why the role is needed at a time of frontline cuts.

It comes two months after the hospital announced it was axing 350 posts as it grapples with a £24million debt.

As part of this, the trust wants to cut up to 40% of the hospital's 84 specialist nurses, who care for patients with conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and diabetes.

The salary the finance manager's post commands is enough for at least three nurses on the minimum starting pay of £11,782.

But the hospital trust has defended the position, which is being advertised after the current postholder retired, saying it is “very necessary”.

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An advert on the NHS careers website says the qualified accountant would provide the “commercial acumen to drive the efficient use” of its resources.

It says the hospital is undergoing a “major period of change and transformation to take control and secure its future” and describes it as an “exciting and challenging agenda”.

John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “Clearly the hospital has got to get its finances into some proper condition, that's certainly true.

“But it does seem to me that the hospital has got to make it clearer to people why this is important compared with specialist nurses.”

He added: “It is not necessarily wrong but it does seem to me that most people in Suffolk are very concerned about the cutting of nurses and are worried the hospital is replacing them with yet more bureaucrats.

“There are over 10% cuts in staff planned - I would want to know what proportion of the back-up staff have been cut or is this all frontline staff?”

Health campaigner Roy Gray, chairman of the Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals Action Group, said: “Unless the situation is drastic in the finance department, I would personally question whether it could be held in abeyance at this time - they are planning to lay off specialist nurses, but recruiting a finance manager.”

However, Ann Glover, spokeswoman for Unison at Ipswich Hospital, said the public services union did not have a problem with the job vacancy.

She said: “Poor financial management contributed to the dire situation they are in now. It's a sensible move to appoint someone to do the job properly.”

Among the stated objectives of the finance manager, who would be paid between £35,232 and £42,278, are to provide financial and performance advice and information to a number of departments.

They must also prepare and analyse financial statements and calculate “robust” money forecasts, monitor savings and be the “financial lead” on outsourced contracts, including those concerning the hospital's facilities management and the new £25m Garrett Anderson centre.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said any new posts or replacement posts were “rigorously looked at” to make sure they are vital to the running of the hospital.

She added: “It is not a new post, it's a replacement position for a member of staff who's retired.

“The post is very necessary as it's the financial lead for more than £30million-worth of budgets.”

“Strengthening financial processes was a key aspect of the external auditor's report.”

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

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