UNION officials have slammed a decision by a health trust to close two nurseries with the loss of more than 50 jobs.
Bosses at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust announced earlier on Thursday morning that the Rainbow Nursery at the University Hospital of Hartlepool will be closing by the end of the year.
The day nursery at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, will also close.
The two sites cater for 178 children of medical staff as well as for youngsters from the wider community, leaving scores of parents having to find alternative childcare.
Around 20 nursery nurses at the Hartlepool nursery are affected, as well as more than 30 at the Stockton site.
Officials from the Unison union say they oppose the decision and are urging trust chiefs to consider other options.
Unison area organiser Mark Edmundson said: “This will have a devastating impact on employees, the local community and staff.
“At a time when the government talks about getting single parents into work, the closure of the day nurseries will make it impossible for ordinary working people to balance their work and family commitments.
“The Trust must rethink this decision and consider other business models to continue providing this vital service to working people.”
Unison northern regional convenor, Clare Williams, said: “These nurseries provide an invaluable public service to both Trust staff and the local community in Hartlepool and North Stockton. “This proposed closure will mean job losses for Unison members, disruption for children and their parents and added travel time and expense as they search for new daycare arrangements.
“In a time when Unison health workers have already suffered pay freezes and a derisory pay offer in 2014, these job losses will have a devastating impact on NHS workers and their families.”
The Mail reported earlier that staff have been given 90-days notice and told facilities are closing.
The Trust says the facilities have become “uneconomic to run”.
Staff are entering a 30-day consultation period and will be given one-to-one sessions with management.
There is potential to redeploy staff elsewhere in the trust, but staff say they are concerned that as they are trained nursery nurses there will be no other positions to fill.
One worker who contact the Mail said: “We are devastated, absolutely devastated and shocked.
“There has been a lot of tears.
“They couldn’t really give us any answers as to why.”
The nursery provides creche facilities primarily for hospital staff’s children, aged from six weeks old up to seven, though it is also open to families in the wider community and is open from 7.30am-5.30pm.
A Trust spokeswoman confirmed: “North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is to close both of its nurseries by the end of 2014.
“The decision has been made after a comprehensive review of the service which has become uneconomic to run.
“Fifty-four full and part time staff are affected.
“A staff consultation has begun and the trust is in the process of contacting parents to inform them of the closure and enable them to make alternative childcare arrangements.”
Trust chief executive Alan Foster said: “It’s vital to stress that this decision is not in any way a reflection of the quality of our nursery staff who provide an excellent service.
“However in these difficult times we cannot continue to offer a service which spends more than it brings in and therefore has to be subsidised with support from frontline healthcare budgets.”