THIRTY-FIVE senior top-level managers have been told their jobs are at risk as hospitals aims to save £16m - and more cuts could be on the way.
The staff at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust were given the devastating news as a 30-day consultation was launched yesterday.
Bosses believe it is more likely to lead to around 24 managerial redundancies, but further job cuts could be made in future as the trust aims to launch further savings reviews.
Hospital chiefs say the proposed cuts are aimed at avoiding any direct affect on patient care and performance.
But they admitted the trust’s financial position is “very difficult” and £383,000 behind budget for the year.
More job cuts could follow as trust chief executive Alan Foster, who asked for all senior management posts to be reviewed, said further reviews will be taken to see if other savings can be made.
Health campaigners claim the proposed cuts are a way of trying to claw back cash needed to pay back interest on the private finance initiative (PFI) for the new hospital at Wynyard.
But trust chiefs say the move is a bid to save £16m in the next year, which is needed to help the NHS save £20bn nationally by 2014-15 as part of health and social care reforms.
The announcement affects senior staff on pay brackets between £40,000 and £80,000 and there are more than 300 posts on this pay level at the trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in Holdforth Road, and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
But those who are in direct patient contact for more than 60 per cent of their workload were taken out of the review, with the 35 posts being a proportion of around 110 other management staff.
In a letter sent to staff yesterday, Mr Foster said: “This first review will see 35 management posts put at risk and it is proposed, at this stage, that 24 of these posts may be declared redundant.
“Once this review is complete and I have assessed the financial impact, further reviews will be undertaken across the trust to establish if there are other potential savings that can be made.”
Mr Foster added: “This is obviously a very unsettling time for all our staff, but it is important we continue to provide high quality patient care, both now and in the future.”
But Hartlepool Borough councillor and vice-chairman of the Save Our Hospital campaign Geoff Lilley said: “The trust is going to have to find at least £20m a year to service the PFI loan.
“The main expenses of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust is wages and that means it’s going to have to come from staff.
“I’m not a great fan of management, but I strongly suspect that the 24 redundancies will only be the tip of the iceberg and perhaps even more importantly it will be interesting to find out how many jobs will not be replaced, through things like natural wastage and people retiring.
“The hospital is the second largest employer in Hartlepool and it might have a significant impact for Hartlepool and North Tees and I would be surprised if there wasn’t going to be more on the way.
“When they do eventually find the PFI money, £20m is a phenomenal amount to come out of the healthcare budget and then there’s the £16m savings, it’s cut on top of cut.”
The Mail reported in January that 38 staff members took up the trust’s offer of voluntary redundancy in a move that would save £1.2m.
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