Redundancy cash revelations shock town

OUTRAGED community leaders have launched a scathing attack on cash strapped health bosses after it was revealed that £2 million has been set aside to cover mass redundancies.

OUTRAGED community leaders have launched a scathing attack on cash strapped health bosses after it was revealed that £2 million has been set aside to cover mass redundancies.

The West Suffolk Primary Care Trust figures have left scores of staff at the threatened Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury convinced they face a bleak future as the authority prepares to take drastic action to claw back multi-million pound debts.

Health chiefs last night moved to reassure concerned patients and staff that the figure was the “worst case scenario” and they were not anticipating a mass cull.

But campaigners accused the PCT of carrying out a “hatchet job” on the aging hospital and called for the massive figure to be spent on safeguarding the temporary future of the much-loved facility before a new health campus is opened in the town in 2007.

Staff at Newmarket Hospital - which is also expected to lose scores of vital beds - could also face the axe as campaigners from both towns prepare to march on Downing Street next month .

They have now been left bracing themselves for a massive blow to the local economy - if the controversial swingeing cutbacks to health services across the whole of Suffolk are given the go-ahead.

Most Read

Describing the figures as “worrying”, south Suffolk MP Tim Yeo told the EADT: “I would suggest this is just a hatchet job on the Walnuttree, regardless of any interest in patient care.

“These kind of redundancy payments do nothing to benefit the health service - it is a complete waste as far as patient care is concerned.

“This will extremely affect morale and staff are going to be extremely worried - and I sympathise with them. They are now facing an uncertain future and we must do whatever we can to resist these plans.”

In a letter to the Walnuttree Hospital Action Committee (WHAC), PCT chief executive Mike Stonard admitted that £2 million had been set aside for redundancies - but claimed that it was unlikely to materialise with every effort made to re-deploy staff.

But this reassurance has done little to appease action group members and staff who spoke of the damaging affect it would have on already fragile staff morale within the hospital.

Committee chairman Colin Spence said: “It is a staggering amount of money and it would now appear that there will be serious staff reductions, which will obviously mean serious cuts to patients services.

“All the way along the PCT have said there would be investment in new services and different approach but this quite clearly shows that the whole debate centres around a lack of finance.”

Hospital porter, Michael Mitchell, said: “This announcement will seriously affect staff morale. The PCT say this is the 'worst case scenario' but there are serious fears the eventual figure could be even higher.”

The Rev Richard Titford, church representative for WHAC, told the EADT: “Morale is absolutely on the floor at the Walnuttree and this is an even greater setback.

“I am aware that some staff are already looking for new jobs before a decision about their future is even made.”

The trust's director of clinical services, Jonathan Williams, last night defended the figures.

He said: “If we had to make everyone redundant at the Walnuttree, then the figure would be around £2 million.

“But we are working extremely hard with staff offering them alternative redeployment and we are confident we can achieve this with the vast amount of people.

“We want to develop exciting new services in the community. We know it is an uncomfortable change and we are aware of the local population's concerns but we are listening to them.”

Mr Williams said they had written to more than 100 staff informing them of the possible cutbacks and the implications on their jobs.

A consultation document into the proposals - entitled Modernising Healthcare in West Suffolk - is currently underway with interested parties having until December 12 to make their comments known.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter