UNION leaders have raised fears of hundreds of job losses at a South Yorkshire hospital under plans to save £50 million over the next three years.
Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust said it faced a “very challenging financial future” as a result of the economic downturn.
The Trust declined to put a figure on possible job losses, but Unison said there was a threat of 750 cuts among nursing staff, clerical workers and medical secretaries as well as allied health professionals such as physiotherapists.
The union warned that Rotherham will not be the last hospital to announce cuts as many are struggling to cope with the impact of funding cuts, rising patient numbers and the legacy of Private Finance Initiative debt.
Trust chief executive Brian James said: “The NHS continues to face tough times financially and the trust therefore needs to identify ways to continue to improve our services for patients whilst being even more efficient.
“Our staff are our biggest asset, but also our biggest cost and we are exploring how to best manage and substantially reduce our costs whilst ensuring we continue to provide quality healthcare and fulfil our commitment to the people of Rotherham to build a healthier future together.”
The Trust said in a statement: “The NHS along with all public sector organisations continues to face a very challenging financial future as a result of the economic downturn.
“This has impacted on the affordability of public services including the NHS, which is expected to improve its efficiency by £20 billion by 2014.
“All NHS services therefore have to radically review their operating practices in order to reduce costs, whilst at the same time maintaining quality of service in the face of rising demand and higher expectations.
“As we seek to make savings from every part of the organisation, the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust is exploring options in order to achieve necessary savings.
“The main focus of this is on opportunities for voluntary redundancy and mutually agreed resignation schemes. However, one of the options is a reduction in workforce expenditure in the form of a compulsory redundancy proposal.”
Unison called on the hospital to think again about the three year cuts plan and explore alternatives to avoid “dramatic” job losses.
Unison official Pam Johnson said: “This is terrible news for patients and for the local community who will lose vital health services. Cutting nursing staff at a time when we have an ageing population and have already lost nearly 6,000 nurses since the ConDems came to power should worry everyone who relies on the NHS in Rotheram.
“This announcement will be a devastating blow for families in the run-up to Christmas. The jobs market is incredibly tough. People will struggle to find other work.
“The Trust says it is looking at voluntary redundancies and natural wastage, but the scale of the job losses causes huge concern and compulsory redundancies aren’t ruled out of the Trust’s plans.”