Warning over hospital recruitment freeze

PATIENTS at a Suffolk hospital could be put at risk as stressed-out staff struggle to cope with increasing pressures as their numbers dwindle, it has been claimed.

PATIENTS at a Suffolk hospital could be put at risk as stressed-out staff struggle to cope with increasing pressures as their numbers dwindle, it has been claimed.

Union officials warned that a recruitment freeze placed on hiring any new employees at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has “begun to bite”.

Gill Robertson, a national executive member of Unison, said the situation at the hospital meant there was the potential for “mistakes to happen” - which could lead to very serious problems.

But hospital officials insist patient care will not suffer as a result of the initiative, which has been designed to bring their deficit down from the £4.5m predicted for March.

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The financial situation of healthcare in the county has now reached such a “crisis point” that West Suffolk MP Richard Spring has called the chairman and chief executive of the Strategic Health Authority to Parliament to discuss their plans for recovery.

“We have a major crisis in west Suffolk and the urgency of this situation is now enormous,” said Mr Spring.

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And Mrs Robertson said staff at the hospital were facing increasing pressures as their volume of work increases - with the recruitment freeze simply adding to an already difficult situation.

“Our staff really are under enough pressure already to deliver a top level service, and this is already affecting the patients,” she said.

“Staff are having to cope with so much that they are having to rush the patients and everybody is very stressed. If they start making mistakes, there could be serious problems.

“The jobs freeze is because of the financial situation, and it is affecting everybody and mistakes can happen.

“This is affecting morale, and although we always live in hope there is not much for us to look forward to.”

Staff who are working at the hospital are put under so much pressure that many are taking time off as a result of the stress and strain of coping with lower numbers, Mrs Robertson said.

“Although the jobs freeze was announced a few weeks ago, it is now beginning to bite. People are not very happy at all,” she added.

“We need enough staff to combat the stress and strain which causes sickness absence. We still have to pay people when they are off sick, which is a false economy.”

However, a spokesman for the hospital trust said without the measures, the trust would face an overspend of in excess of £4.5m.

“The trust has put in a range of measures that are designed to increase efficiency and reduce expenditure without affecting front line patient care,” he said.

“The measures include reviewing all vacancies in order to reduce the high costs of using agency staff.

“We are working closely with our clinical directors to ensure that patients who are emergency and urgent cases continue to be treated as a priority and that the trust meets core Government targets.

“Other cost savings measures include reviewing such things as the stationery orders, non-essential purchases and non-statutory training and education and hospitality.”

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