Hospital jobs will be lost, but not forced

Date published: 03 February 2011

Jobs across the Pennine Acute Trust will go as health chiefs take drastic action to axe £45 million from their budget.

Pennine Acute Trust, which runs hospitals in Rochdale, Oldham, Bury and North Manchester, issued the blow as it struggles to balance the books.

But chief executive John Saxby said that despite the necessity to “consider all options,” compulsory redundancies were not on the cards.

He said: “We have never had to resort to compulsory redundancies in the past and I would not see why we would have to go there now.

He said there would be a “significant” reduction in posts across the Trust, as staffing costs took 70 per cent of the budget.

But he said staff would be redeployed to existing vacancies, or to cover temporary posts and overtime wherever possible.

The Trust is in the process of launching a voluntary severance scheme designed to create vacancies that can either be filled by redeployment, or which don’t need to be replaced.

Mr Saxby said: “We have a reasonable level of natural turnover of staff in any one year and that will mean that we can absorb displaced staff into those posts.

“I sincerely expect that at the end of this process everyone who wishes to continue to work for the Trust will still be with us.”

He added: “Our overriding aim is to make sure we continue to provide safe, sustainable and high standards of care as well as protect the jobs of our permanent staff.”

Mr Saxby blamed the drastic action on inflation and loss of income, and warned of further cutbacks once the Trust finds out how much primary care trusts plan to spend at hospitals next year.

Mr Saxby said about Pennine Acute Trust: “Even for a large organisation like this, with an operating budget of over half a billion pounds, this level of savings cannot be achieved by cutting out waste or reducing non-pay expenditure alone.”

Expensive agency doctors and temporary locums last year cost the cash-strapped trust more than £21 million — up 50 per cent on the previous year, and up 66 per cent on 2007/08.

The trust has had no alternative but to use agency staff as it battles a national shortage of middle grade doctors seeking permanent jobs.

It prefers to employ permanent medical staff, saying temporary locum and agency staff lead to a lack of continuity of care for patients, reduced reliability in staffing rotas, and no real direct accountability.

The trust has cracked down on the practice, saving £1.34 million a month since April, 2010,

Gary Owen, regional officer for the Unite union, said he wasn’t surprised by the move as trusts face severe financial restraints.

“Pennine Acute Trust is doing the best it can in difficult circumstances, but we are concerned not only because it could mean involuntary job losses for our members, but what it means for those who are left.

“Our members are already rushed off their feet, and we are concerned about what services are going to be like for patients.

“How are they going to keep the same level of service with fewer hands on deck?”

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