‘We will do everything we can to avoid redundancies’, said UNISON south west regional organiser Chris Dayus yesterday, after the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust announced plans to axe 300 jobs.
The trust said some of these will come from compulsory redundancies, adding that it also plans to close operating theatres and wards in the face of a £8.1m deficit this year.
Outlining its ‘financial recovery plan’, the trust said its financial problems were due to the cost of providing better services, increased staff costs, ‘multiple government targets’, and having to face competition from the private sector under the government’s primary care commissioning system.
Commenting on the financial crisis in the NHS, Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said: ‘The financial crisis in the NHS is being fuelled by the government’s contradictory policies which are creating instability and tearing the health service in too many directions.
‘We have huge PFI hospitals that will struggle for years to pay off their debts because of the shift in government policy from hospital to primary care.
‘The private sector meanwhile is being featherbedded by the government.
‘More than £5bn has gone to Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTC’s) that don’t come under the tariff system and are guaranteed the contract price, regardless of how many operations they actually carry out.
‘By contrast the NHS is paid less for dealing with patients who have multiple conditions and then they are accused of under-performing. Once we hand over our NHS to the private sector there will be no going back.
‘The government must stop and take stock. We don’t need this constant fog of reform when it would make more sense to pilot changes to see what works and what doesn’t.’
A British Medical Association spokeswoman responded to the Royal Cornwall trust announcement yesterday: ‘This is yet further evidence of the financial crisis facing the NHS.
‘NHS trusts across the country are being forced to make cuts in patient services in order to meet their debts.
‘However it is unacceptable to blame new contracts for doctors and other staff on the pressures they are now facing.
‘There are many reasons why trusts have difficulties balancing their books – an ever increasing number of patients, rising drug costs as well as multiple government targets to implement.’
‘NHS staff have been working exceptionally hard to bring down waiting times for patients and deliver new processes of care. They rightly deserve a fair salary for their work and should not be blamed for the government’s failure to properly fund new contracts or poor financial management by an NHS trust.’
• Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said she should be judged on ‘restoring the NHS to financial balance over the next financial year’ in the wake of its chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp’s resignation.