Huge job cuts spark health service fears

HEALTH bosses last night vowed services would not suffer, despite the loss of hundreds of posts in Suffolk over a two-year period, with the final tally looking likely to approach 1,000.

HEALTH bosses last night vowed services would not suffer, despite the loss of hundreds of posts in Suffolk over a two-year period, with the final tally looking likely to approach 1,000.

One union last night said the shocking figure was proof the county's health system was in disarray and claimed patient care would deteriorate as a result.

Ann Glover, of Unison, said: “It's our view that the health service in Suffolk is in crisis. The service has definitely suffered and will continue to suffer because of the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

“It's only those that have got money behind them that can get the service they need when they want it. I do seriously think it will get worse before it gets better.”

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Yesterday's announcement that Ipswich Hospital is looking to shed 350 positions follows a move by West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, to axe 260 posts.

In June last year, Suffolk West Primary Care Trust announced it was considering axing nearly 250 posts at hospitals in Sudbury and Newmarket, although these proposals have yet to become a reality and are now the subject of a judicial review.

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And Suffolk Mental Health Partnership has identified around 22 positions that could be lost, according to Unison, meaning a total of approaching 1,000 posts have been identified for the axe in the county's health service since 2004.

When asked yesterday whether the cuts would have a detrimental impact on patient care, Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: “We sincerely hope not.

“We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact. It's about safeguarding high quality patient care for the future.”

But Ms Glover, who represents many of the under-threat workers at the hospital, claimed: “The cuts are not quite disastrous but it's verging on the disastrous, not only for the staff but for the people of Ipswich.”

A spokeswoman for West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust confirmed 260 posts are in the process of being made redundant in Bury St Edmunds.

She said: “It has been an ongoing challenge to reduce the workforce by this amount, but thanks to improved and more efficient ways of working, we are moving towards achieving this with minimum disruption to patients.”

A spokesman for Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) insisted no job cuts had been made as yet and, although £11m of savings had been found, targets were being hit.

Although around 150 posts had been identified for the chop, he claimed the final figure is likely to be much smaller.

He added: “The PCT board has agreed a number of key decisions that included the closure of the inpatient beds at the Newmarket and Walnuttree hospitals.

“Because of the judicial review process instigated by some residents in Sudbury, the PCT has been unable to implement these decisions. However, if we could, our plans would involve redeploying and training many staff into patient care roles in the community.

“While we believe this would probably involve a small number of job cuts, it would be our policy to keep these to a minimum.”

Ipswich Hospital - consultation taking place on cutting 350 posts.

West Suffolk Hospital - 260 posts being made redundant

Newmarket Hospital - 93 posts earmarked for redundancy but not yet cut as a judicial review is under way.

Walnuttree Hospital, Sudbury - 145 posts identified but no redundancies have taken place due to the same judicial review.

Suffolk Mental Health Partnership - 22 jobs expected to be cut.

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