Sweeping NHS cuts rubber-stamped

BURY ST EDMUNDSBy Dave GooderhamSWEEPING cutbacks to a cash-strapped hospital - leaving hundreds of staff with an anxious future - have been rubber stamped.

BURY ST EDMUNDS

By Dave Gooderham

SWEEPING cutbacks to a cash-strapped hospital - leaving hundreds of staff with an anxious future - have been rubber stamped.

West Suffolk Hospitals Trust approved yesterday widespread changes, which will see 220 posts axed and the closure of more than 50 beds and two surgeries at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds.


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Although the measures will save millions of pounds, trust bosses admitted they would still be left with a deficit of more than £10million and were unable to give assurances over job cuts, describing redundancies as a “realistic possibility”.

Talks are now planned between management, staff and trade unions to look at the “impact and implications” of the cuts.

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Chris Bown, trust chief executive, warned: “We should not underestimate the seriousness of the situation we are in.

“I understand that the public's faith in the health service has taken a dent, but we have to meet these challenges head on and I am confident we can come through it.

“These are radical changes, but we feel they will make considerable improvements to the situation at the hospital.”

He added: “A key priority for the board and management team is that whatever we do to reduce costs, patient safety must remain paramount.

“The changes will be difficult and there is no getting away from the fact that they will cause anxiety to both staff and the public.”

Although the cutbacks are expected to affect staff in areas throughout the hospital, Mr Bown pledged every effort would be made to relocate or retrain employees.

“We are looking to reduce our payroll - which makes up about 63% of our total expenditure - by about 220 posts,” he said.

“This is not saying that we will be making 220 people redundant, but it would be wrong for me to say that this will not result in some compulsory redundancy.”

Jan Bloomfield, director of personnel and communications, added: “We are carrying out a vacancy freeze so we can offer those affected alternative employment.

“We are also trying to use more bank staff and less agency staff, but we will also see if any staff would like to take voluntary redundancy where economically viable.”

Mr Bown told trust board members that 130 cost-cutting measures would be introduced over the next year.

“We have produced a phased timetable for changes throughout the year which we believe will keep us in the black by the end of the year,” he said.

“We must then start work on our accumulative deficit. That gap will not be closed, so we then need to look at other options to reduce costs.”

The board agreed to the changes, but said it wanted more detailed analysis on the bed cuts and plans to encourage clinic staff to become self-insured - a move designed at saving more than £1m.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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