Pressure on A&E units could halt jobs axe in NHS... for now

URGENT action being taken to tackle worsening pressures on emergency and urgent care services could lead to a halt being called to thousands of job losses in the NHS.

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But health chiefs are predicting that tens of thousands more posts will be shed in coming years as managers desperately look for further cuts to achieve billions of pounds of savings.

Staff have been targeted for cuts as they account for two thirds of NHS costs.

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Figures show the workforce has been cut by seven per cent in Yorkshire to 125,600 since June 2010.

Of 9,000 staff who have been axed, 1,300 were managers, mainly in now abolished primary care trusts.

But there are nearly 1,500 fewer nurses, midwives and health visitors working in the health service in the region, fuelling criticisms that NHS austerity measures are hitting front-line care.

The sudden rise in pressures on A&E units which emerged late last year is being seen as a sign of wider problems in the NHS ranging from difficulties accessing GP care to problems discharging patients from hospital due to cuts in social services budgets. They have also come at a time of rising demand due to an older and frailer population.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation and a former chief executive of the West and South Yorkshire Strategic Health Authorities, said: “The NHS has reached the point where its financial predicament is on a scale we have never seen before, and we no longer have the luxury of time or extra money on our side.

“We need to look beyond the short-term options and consider more radical solutions that will improve care in the long term and allow us to manage the resources we have on a sustainable basis.

“We can do much more to create a modern, affordable system that works in the best interests of patients.”

He added: “Getting this right may require some difficult decisions, including centralising some services, and moving others out of hospitals and into people’s homes.”

In a review published last month, the regulator Monitor said plans by 145 elite foundation trusts indicated that in contrast to cuts of previous years, total numbers of employees would increase by 10,000, or two per cent, in 2013-14.

However it described the measures as a “short-term fix” for operational pressures being driven by the Francis report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust scandal, shortfalls in capacity and new guidance on 24/7 working.

By contrast, between 2014 and 2016, trusts plan to axe as many as 30,000 more staff, notably by cutting numbers of nurses by four per cent.

NHS trusts providing front-line care in Yorkshire say the bulk of the 1,100 jobs they shed last year were in non-clinical positions.

The biggest staff exit programme was at the troubled Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust where 236 left at a cost of £5.8m.

The trust is facing long-term financial difficulties and is not expected to break even until 2016 following a major reconfiguration of services in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury.

The Rotherham NHS trust, which axed 95 jobs at a cost of £3.1m, made savings worth £5m in its corporate services after a team of private sector turnaround experts called in to tackle its worsening financial difficulties halted a controversial ward closure programme.

Among those paid off were three executives with pay-outs of between £200,000 and £265,000 each.

The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole trust, which runs hospitals in Goole, Scunthorpe and Grimsby, axed 101 jobs at a cost of nearly £3m. It is among 11 nationally to be put in special measures over concerns triggered by higher-than-expected death rates.

Inspectors found inadequate numbers of both doctors and nurses in some areas. Patients were being cared for by ambulance staff in A&E at Grimsby where patient triage was being carried out by a receptionist and there were accusations from some patients that they were not receiving basic standards of care.

Among measures being launched by the trust is a recruitment drive for nurses both at home and from Spain and Portugal, which have been badly hit by the problems in the eurozone, with plans to fill 30 posts from interviews this month.