BARNET NHS CRISIS – faces £31m cuts in 2006-07

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Hospital trade unions and patient groups are demanding that the management of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust come clean on their plans to axe staff at Barnet Hospital in the face of a £31million deficit.

It is believed that there are hundreds of redundancies in the pipeline at the trust.

There is already huge local opposition against plans to close Chase Farm Accident and Emergency department, which would mean large scale redundancies.

The trust has already made cuts of £12.3m but has failed to meet a target of £22m ‘savings’.

This left it £10m in the red at the end of the 2005/06 financial year at the end of March, so it is now legally required to make up an additional £31m in 2006-07.

Trust managers have so far refused to speak up about the numbers to be sacked.

But a trust spokeswoman warned: ‘Our top priority for 2006-07 must be to live within our means.’

Managers blame this coming year’s £31m shortfall on the government’s new Payment by Results (PbR) funding system, whereby hospital trusts will be paid a nationally set tariff for each patient treated.

The spokeswoman added about the Hewitt ‘hit squads’ sent to the hospital: ‘We are working with the team from accountantcy firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the Department of Health’s performance support team to find ways to eliminate that gap.’

Royal College of Nursing regional officer Alan Ridley warned the uncertainty ‘is putting stress on all staff, with regards to the security of their positions and changes in workload’.

He said staff are anxious about their future.

He added: ‘Jobs are being streamlined where there are vacancies, they are disappearing or there’s restructuring.’

Ridley said that nurses are ‘angry that they are not being respected and that their goodwill is being stretched to breaking point’.

As of April 1st, the trust increased daily parking charges from £3 to £4 with the income raised being put straight back into hospital budgets.

It announced to patients and staff that it is looking at ways of increasing income and reducing spending through efficiency savings, such as cutting money spent on agency staff.

Meanwhile, Barnet, Enfield & Haringey Mental Health Trust announced last week that it will have to make ‘savings’ of approximately £9m from its budget this year.

A trust spokeswoman said managers were looking at reducing staffing levels, particularly agency staff, and cutting the number of mental health beds.