Job losses could be ‘tip of iceberg’

UNION officials fear the threat over 35 senior management jobs at a health trust is “just the tip of the iceberg” – with more potential staff cuts on the way.

But representatives of public sector trade union Unison remain hopeful that the number of compulsory redundancies under review at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust can be reduced.

Thirty-five senior managers at the trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, were told on Tuesday their jobs are in jeopardy.

Bosses have started a 30-day consultation as part of a review to save £16m this year, in line with the NHS’s bid to save £20bn nationally by 2014-15 as part of health and social care reforms.

Unison’s regional organiser Mike Hill said: “The unions are working closely with the trust to mitigate losses and avoid compulsory redundancies.

“The fear is this is just the tip of the iceberg, and that more job losses could be in the pipeline.

“The unions are hopeful that the number of compulsory redundancies will be reduced.

“If you look at local government, large figures of redundancies were expected, but less were 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 as part of health and social care reforms.

The announcement affects senior staff earning between £40,000 and £80,000 and there are more than 300 posts on this pay level at the trust.

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 a proportion of around 110 other management staff.

In a letter sent to staff, 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.”

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.

“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.”

Mr Foster said the “need to save money has never been greater”.

He added: “Following this review we will be looking at all posts which do not have any elements of patient contact to see if we can do things differently.

“In the current climate and given what we know about what is facing us we cannot rule anything which would contribute to the savings we need to make.”

He stressed high-quality care is still top priority.

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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