Hospital job cuts are ‘a disaster for patient care’

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A former senior nurse at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary has slammed the district health trust’s proposals to cut staff at its hospitals.

Public services union UNISON has also condemned staff cuts, saying that they would be “a disaster” for patient care, despite the trust’s assurances that care would not suffer.

The trust said that 170 of posts at risk were part of its Length of Stay and Nursing establishment schemes and covered nurses, midwives, additional clinical services and admin and clerical.

In total, around 250 front line jobs, or five per cent of the trust’s workforce, are at risk.

This week, UHMBT started a formal consultation into staff roles and said it could not rule out job losses as it looks to make £30m in savings to balance its books.

Former senior staff nurse Russell Dunkeld, from Morecambe, left the trust in 2009 due to a whole catalogue of issues, some of which focused on staff malpractice and the failure of management to deal with certain situations at the hospital.

He was made to sign a gagging order, but the government has now said that former staff should have the right to express their views in the public interest.

Mr Dunkeld said it was “absolutely deplorable” that the trust could look at cutting nursing posts, and that it would not be possible to do this without compromising patient safety.

He said: “The trust holds the card up and says that patient safety is top priority, but they go ahead and make cuts anyway.

“If anything goes wrong, they’ll just blame the nurses.

“When I was working there, the situation was totally unsatisfactory. Staff could barely cope with the workload as it was.

“I don’t suppose they’ve looked at the management staff to cut costs, 121 of whom are on over £100,000 per year, amounting to at least £12.1m, or given any mention to the fact that they are still paying Tony Halsall seven staff nurse salaries even though he’s no longer working there.”

The consultation with staff began on Monday, and will take 45 days.

It is thought that the roles of medical secretaries and agency staff will also be affected.

Tim Ellis, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “These cuts will worsen acute healthcare in the area. Staff skills will also be reduced so the trust can cut pay. These cuts are a disaster for NHS care in the area.” Mr Ellis said that health staff would be working with Clinical Commissioning Groups, the county council’s health scrutiny committee and doctors organisations to oppose the proposals.

In a letter to staff, the trust’s chair John Cowdall and chief executive Jackie Daniel said the “improving efficiency of service to patients” drive will enable full and effective consultation with staff during this period.

The trust would “then move directly into organisational change”.

The letter said: “It would be wrong of us to guarantee that there will not be job losses as a result of the changes but we will do everything we can to minimise the impact.

“One way we will be doing this it to look as a priority to redeploy staff within the organisation wherever possible.

“We will continue to work with staff representatives and unions to provide appropriate support to affected staff.

“We would like to reiterate our commitment to safety and quality.

“All schemes must undergo a Quality Impact Assessment requiring the final sign off from the divisional Clinical Director, Medical Director and Executive Chief Nurse. To be signed off, schemes must be able to demonstrate through this process that they will not negatively impact on patient safety or quality of experience.”