Disaster At Royal Free

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ROYAL Free Hospital bosses have been putting doctors under pressure to accept as much as ten per cent pay cuts as part of a plan to save £25 million over the next twelve months.

This is on top of the 480 job cuts and 100 bed cuts announced by the northwest London NHS trust last Wednesday.

Royal Free UNISON branch secretary Jim Mansfield said the cuts were ‘unachievable’.

He warned: ‘If this really is the scale of what will happen then it will be a disaster.

‘You can’t talk about improving the health service if you are talking about 480 job cuts.’

This was a reference to a trust statement which said the hospital sought to ‘improve the efficiency of staff rotas to allow a reduction in staff numbers of approximately 480 posts.’

Hinting at more cuts it added: ‘The trust will do everything possible to ensure that redundancies are kept to a minimum, however, they cannot be ruled out at this stage.’

The statement also claimed: ‘If we are treating patients more efficiently we will need fewer beds and we are therefore closing approximately 100 beds.’

Royal Free staff are angry and concerned for the future, with one consultant accusing management of acting in a panic.

Trust chief executive Andrew Wray claimed: ‘These measures are not exceptional.

‘We must achieve financial balance if we are to control our own future as the government made it very clear they will not bail out organisations that fail to do so.’

Hospital trade union leaders are due to meet with the trust management next month to discuss the way forward.

But many staff, patients and local residents say there has to be a fight started now to defend the hospital, with action organised to defend every job, bed and hospital service.

• Second News story

ISRAEL TO SET PERMANENT BORDERS!

Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert has said he will hold negotiations with the US and other countries, as well as at home, before setting final borders for the state.

But in an interview with Israel Radio broadcast yesterday, Olmert reiterated his determination to fix Israel’s borders with or without an agreement with the Palestinians.

He said: ‘We should have agreement among ourselves on the borders and then negotiate with the international community.’

He added that deciding on the borders was necessary, ‘to separate ourselves from the Palestinians’. He said that his plan would ensure that ‘at no point will we be hostage to the will of the Palestinians’.

Olmert said he is sure he will get backing from the international community, that there was a willingness in Washington and among other countries to discuss the arguments seriously.

He told Israel Radio: ‘I spoke about negotiations with the United States and the international community and I spoke about final borders that the entire international community will support, including the United States of America.’

Olmert’s plan calls for giving the new Hamas-led Palestinian government time to decide whether it will moderate its views and then holding an internal dialogue to determine what kind of borders Israelis want.

He told Israel Radio that one of the aims of his proposed plan was safeguarding the Jewish state with a ‘stable Jewish majority’.

Meanwhile, Olmert’s Kadima party remains the favourite to win the Israeli elections tomorrow, despite a recent drop in opinion polls.

His plans to establish permanent borders for Israel by 2010 had earlier led him to express hopes of winning more than 40 seats, to give him the leverage necessary to push the proposal through.