Massive nursing job losses will devastate Barts Hospital, say campaigners

CONTROVERSIAL plans to axe more than 250 nurses at the trust which runs Barts Hospital will be “devastating”, say health campaigners who fear “NHS rationing” for residents in the future.

Barts and the London NHS Trust, which runs Barts, in Smithfield, The London Chest Hospital, in Tower Hamlets, and The Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel, announced last week it will cut 630 posts - including 258 nursing staff - and 100 in-patient hospital beds.

The Trust wants to make massive savings by reducing its workforce by 10 per cent, but campaigners have slammed the cost-cutting exercise which they claim will directly affect health services for Islington residents.

Shirley Franklin, chairman of the Islington Hands Off Our Public Services Coalition, said: “It will be absolutely devastating to local people. We were promised there would be no cuts in health which has turned out to be absolutely rubbish. It is awful to be cutting nursing staff – we need as many nurses as possible. We will be supporting the hospital workers and the unions in the fight back against the cuts.”

Wendy Mead, chairman of the Save Barts Campaign pressure group, said: “It is going to have a huge impact. It is a short term solution. They will still need the nurses and then they will have to hire agency staff which costs three times as much – so I don’t see where the savings will be made. You can close 100 beds but people are still going to get sick. This means we could back to the old days of NHS rationing.”

A new �200 million cancer centre opened at Barts Hospital in May last year and a hi-tech impressive cardiac centre of excellence is also scheduled to open in 2014.

“The trust has been saddled with the Private Finance Initiative rebuild for Barts which we campaigned against because we knew the financial implications,” said Ms Mead. “Nevertheless we have wonderful facilities for cancer patients and in a few years time for cardiac patients. But it is no good if people can’t come in because the Trust is not providing the services.

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“It all seems a bit Alice in Wonderland. We have these amazing facilities but not the nurses or beds – it does not make sense. I assume the Trust is just responding to what it has been told to do – which is save a lot of money.”

The Coalition Government wants to make efficiency savings across the NHS of �20 billion by 2014-2015.

A statement from Barts and the NHS London Trust said: “Over the next few years, all hospitals are being asked to contribute to the 20 per cent productivity improvement needed by the NHS, and Barts and The London is no exception. “As a result of this, in the next two years we will be doing the same amount of work with 200 fewer staff in our 7,000 strong workforce.

“Staff will be lost primarily from corporate and back office functions. We do not expect any compulsory redundancies among frontline clinical staff, but jobs will change and we will be asking staff to be flexible by moving into new roles, and filling existing and future vacancies which arise from our 10 per cent annual staff turnover.

“We are already delivering bigger savings than at any time in our history and have demonstrated that we can make major changes happen safely, while treating more patients. We will continue to work closely with both staff and unions during this consultation period.”