THE UNISON public sector union yesterday reaffirmed it will back strike action to defend NHS jobs.
It was responding to the news that the huge Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust (BHRT) is planning to axe up to 650 jobs and cut 190 beds to recoup a £24m deficit.
A UNISON spokeswoman told News Line: ‘We are seeing almost daily a rise in the number of job cuts in the NHS.
‘This will inevitably lead to worse patient care, longer waiting lists and will add to the fears and uncertainty of staff working in the NHS.
‘The UNISON conference this week agreed to back any branch that called lawful, industrial action to protect jobs and patient services.’
The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday also expressed its extreme concern.
A BMA spokesperson told News Line: ‘Job cuts at NHS trusts are becoming a regular occurrence and the BMA is extremely worried about this.
‘It is further evidence that when trusts struggle financially, it is frontline staff and patients who suffer.
‘You can’t cut staff and say that services won’t be affected.’
Barking, Havering and Redbridge RCN steward Less Bailes-Barrett added: ‘We are opposed to any job cuts.’
In its statement headed ‘changes to acute hospital services’, Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust (BHRT) outlined its ‘two-year Financial Recovery Plan to bring the organisation back into financial balance’.
The statement says that ‘In 2006/07, there will be a reduction of 190 beds.’
It adds: ‘All areas of expenditure are being critically examined to help balance the books this includes the workforce.
‘Staff costs account for around 70 per cent of our overall spending and therefore, workforce changes must play a significant part in bringing BHRT into financial balance.
‘These changes could result in up to 650 whole-time equivalent posts being affected.
‘Of these, it is anticipated that about 70 per cent will be non-clinical posts and the balance, clinical posts.’
The trust says it intends to axe temporary, bank and agency staff, and freeze recruitment.
It adds: ‘The changes to the workforce and beds are closely linked into our clinical strategy.
‘As the Trust moves into the new 939-bedded hospital at the end of the year, we will be consolidating and relocating services provided, which will mean the planned closure of inpatient services at Harold Wood and Barking Hospitals.’
BHRT is one of the largest trusts in the NHS, with regional services for cancer and neurosurgery along with one of the largest maternity units in England.
It currently employs 6,000 staff and is responsible for Barking, Harold Wood, King George and Oldchurch hospitals.