More managers to oversee NHS cuts?

SUDBURY AND NEWMARKETBy Benedict O'ConnorHEALTH bosses have refused to rule out employing more managers to oversee the loss of 229 jobs in an effort to cut £42.

SUDBURY AND NEWMARKET

By Benedict O'Connor

HEALTH bosses have refused to rule out employing more managers to oversee the loss of 229 jobs in an effort to cut £42.5million debts.

Suffolk West Primary Care Trust chief executive Mike Stonard has admitted the current management “lacked certain skills” required to cut its estimated £20m share of the £42.5m black hole in west Suffolk health service finances.


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Mr Stonard said the board “may or may not” employ extra managers to bridge the skills gap that he claimed was necessary to reduce the debts by axing 229 full and part-time jobs, and shutting down 16 hospital beds at Newmarket Hospital and 32 at Walnuttree Hospital, Sudbury.

“The primary care trust hasn't had the management capability and right skills to deliver the changes, which are very complex,” he added.

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“The management skills the primary care trust did have were not being used most effectively, there were too many targets, not enough consultation and a lack of clarity of roles. There were too few people trying to do to many things.”

Richard Spring, West Suffolk MP, said Mr Stonard's comments were “fantastical” and added: “The last thing the NHS needs is more management.

“What we do need is a lean, mean primary care trust, with a lean, mean strategic health authority to see it does its job.

“The idea we have to spend more money on bureaucracy to sort out the problems caused by bureaucrats is a fantastical proposition.”

The trust agreed yesterday to axe 68 beds at Walnuttree Hospital under a financial recovery plan, which will now undergo a three-month consultation period.

Outpatient services at Walnuttree Hospital and Sudbury's other hospital, St Leonard's, will also be axed, with the trust centralising services at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

A plan to introduce 30 inpatient beds at the new multi-million-pound Sudbury health campus, due to open in 2007 as a replacement for Walnuttree and St Leonard's Hospitals, has also been withdrawn.

Colin Muge, trust chairman, defended the role of the board in overseeing the spiralling debt and said it had not acted sooner as it had been trying to avoid changes to services.

He added: “I think we have managed to maintain services under circumstances in which we were not being funded for the level of service we provided. If that means doing a good job, then yes we have.”

Dr Andrew Hassan, trust executive director, urged the public to assist in reducing the debt by asking their GPs to refer to them to West Suffolk Hospital rather than Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, which he said cost on average £1,000 a person.

Speaking after the meeting, hospital porter Michael Mitchell, one of the leading campaigners to save Walnuttree Hospital, said: “We are absolutely disgusted at the decisions made by the primary care trust.

“They have got no regard for the people of Sudbury, the patients or their families who are going to suffer terribly if these cuts happen. We are not prepared to accept this and we are determined to fight all the way, whatever it takes.”

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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