‘A TERRIBLE DAY FOR PATIENTS IN LONDON’ – as hospitals slash hundreds of jobs

Unison leader DAVE PRENTIS at a ‘Keep the NHS Working’ rally in Kingston in 2007
Unison leader DAVE PRENTIS at a ‘Keep the NHS Working’ rally in Kingston in 2007

‘This is a terrible day for patients in London, who have found out they stand to lose nearly 1,000 health workers,’ said public sector union Unison general secretary Dave Prentis on Thursday.

He was commenting on the news that Kingston Hospital NHS Trust is set to cut 486 posts over five years, including 214 nurses and 20 medical staff – 20% of the total workforce, shortly after it emerged that St George’s Hospital Tooting is to axe 500 jobs, including nurses.

Prentis said: ‘This nails the lie that the frontline will be protected: more than 200 nurses at Kingston Hospital will lose their jobs.

‘Tory claims to be the party of the NHS are nothing but a sham – how is this hospital supposed to keep on running with 20% fewer staff?

‘The job cuts at Kingston are a direct result of Lansley’s plans to hand over funding to GPs, so this deeply worrying pattern of hospital job cuts will be repeated across the country.

‘It’s time for the Tories to put the breaks on the reforms, and start thinking about patients.’

Nora Pearce, Unison rep at Kingston Hospital, said: ‘This is terrible news for staff and for people living in Kingston.

‘All through the election we were told that the health service would not suffer frontline cuts – but now my hospital is set to lose more than 200 nurses. This government is ripping the heart out of the NHS.

‘Ed Davey MP, and Nick Clegg both used the hospital as a backdrop during their election campaigns, but where are they now when we need their support?’

Earlier, commenting on the St George’s job cuts, Unison said: ‘News that 500 staff, including nurses and consultants at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust in Tooting, are to lose their jobs, is a terrible shock to staff and patients.

‘The Government squeeze on NHS finances and demands for £20bn in so-called “efficiency savings”, is forcing the Trust into making serious cuts in order to save £50m.

‘The cuts will lead to at least three wards closing with the loss of roughly 100 beds.

‘The Trust is also capping the number of births at the hospital to 3,000 a year, even though the current number is 4,200, leading to a significant gap in local maternity services, and forcing women to travel long distances to give birth.’

Prentis said: ‘Cutting 500 jobs and closing at least three wards is a devastating blow for staff and patients at St George’s.

‘The shock waves will be felt in hospitals across London and beyond.

‘This announcement is more proof that the NHS is not safe in Cameron and Lansley’s hands and is reminiscent of Thatcher’s devastating reforms during the 80s and 90s.

‘Only two weeks ago, Barts and St Thomas announced 630 job losses, including 250 nurses and 100 beds cut.

‘Sadly we are going to hear a steady feed of these cuts with the loss of valuable staff, beds and services in communities right across the country.

‘These job losses are collateral damage to a government intent on pushing through the Health and Social Care Bill.

‘The reality is it is wrecking NHS workers’ lives and careers, and endangering the patients they treat.’

Nurse Jane Pilgrim, Unison Nursing Convenor at St George’s Hospital, said: ‘This is a sad day for staff at St George’s.

‘We were told by the Government that there would be no cuts in frontline posts but in reality the NHS is witnessing swingeing cuts to frontline services every day.’  

The Trust is one of the largest healthcare providers in south west London.

St George’s Hospital in Tooting is one of the country’s principal teaching hospitals.

The union is warning that the loss of so many jobs will have serious consequences not only on the local community and London, but on patients across the south east.

The Trust provides treatment for specialities such as bone marrow transplants, complex pelvic trauma and HIV care across a wide geographical area.

Unison said it will be seeking further meetings with the Trust to try to minimise the job losses and protect patients.

Meanwhile a campaign to protect the future of acute services at Epsom General Hospital has been launched.

Epsom Hospital’s most important services – such as accident and emergency – will soon be in the hands of a consortium of GPs who will control the lion’s share of the region’s NHS budget if the Coalition White Paper becomes law.

These services are now under threat.

There is widespread concern from residents, politicians and campaigners who think that services will be moved to other hospitals for commercial reasons.

The hospital’s future took a turn for the worst in December when it was announced by Epsom and St Helier that the trust would separate – after almost 11 years as a combined entity because they it not attain foundation status as a unit.

All hospitals have been told they must achieve foundation status by 2014, and it was decided the trust’s future was not financially viable in partnership with St Helier.

Epsom Hospital will either become a foundation trust on its own, merge with another foundation trust or team up with a non-foundation trust.

Coupled with this re-arrangement of the financial structure of the hospital, the coalition government plans to abolish all 151 primary care trusts and hand GPs control of about 80 per cent of the £100bn NHS budget by 2013.

In 2007, plans to build a £350m hospital to replace the existing buildings at Epsom and St Helier were scrapped, despite millions being spent on consultation and preparation.

• Commenting on an item on the Today programme on Thursday morning, on an unpublished report from the West Midlands Perinatal Institute including a survey of community midwives, Louise Silverton, Deputy General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘We have not seen the report but I am deeply concerned about what I have heard.

‘The RCM has been saying for a long time that it is worried about the workload and the amount of time that community midwives have to assess women in the antenatal period.

‘Many midwives are being pushed to reduce the amount of time they spend with women and the implications of this were outlined by Professor Jason Gardosi on the Today programme.

‘He explained that in a significant number of cases there was substandard care, and different management would have been expected to make a difference to the outcome.

‘If midwives do not have sufficient time to assess and support women, things including identification of risk factors can get missed.

‘Women also may feel that they have an issue they want to discuss but do not want to bother the midwife because they can see how busy they are.

‘This is wrong and potentially disastrous. The reports of the huge caseload that community midwives in the region are having to cope with fills me with alarm.

‘It is also a concern that the West Midlands was reported last week as planning to reduce the number of midwives trained in the region. This report would seem to highlight the folly of this.

‘I suspect that this situation is not confined to the West Midlands.

‘We have got to challenge the short-term financial expediency of inadequate midwife numbers and the potential and sometimes disastrous effects of this.

‘We need to see more midwives in the NHS to cope with the increasing demands being placed upon maternity services, for the sake of the women and babies who these overstretched and overworked midwives care for.’