Axe to fall on hospital workers

MORE than 350 Wigan hospital staff face the axe over the next three years, health bosses revealed today.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that it plans to reduce staff numbers by 364, in response to the financial challenges being faced nationally by the NHS, to achieve cost savings of £20bn over the same period.

The move comes despite a Government promise to ‘ringfence’ the NHS from cost-cutting.

Trust director of human resources and organisational development Jon Lenney said: “The trust recently shared a paper with our local union representatives that showed a provisional planned headcount reduction over three years totalling 364, to contribute to our required savings.

“The trust is currently developing more detailed implementation plans to deliver these financial savings whilst maintaining high quality and safe patient care.

“Precise details of where the staff reductions will take place have not been fully finalised, but the trust is working with its local union organisation to avoid any compulsory redundancies.

“The trust is about to commence a consultation exercise on a national proposal between NHS employers and the NHS trade unions, which will allow local agreements to freeze pay increments for two years, in return for a firm commitment to avoid compulsory redundancies in specific staff groups.

“If this proposal is agreed, it will contribute significantly to our locally required financial savings and help avoid job losses.”

Shop stewards from the borough’s biggest health union Unite say Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust’s plans to reduce its workforce would see an estimated 195 clinical posts go, affecting nursing in particular, at the Trust’s three hospitals - Wigan Infirmary, Leigh Infirmary, Wrightington Hospital and the Thomas Linacre outpatients centre in Wigan.

Unite North West’s regional secretary Paul Finegan said: “The NHS was founded in 1948 on the principle that taxation would provide top quality healthcare for everyone, free at the point of delivery. And that’s how it has been for the last 62 years, one of the best and fairest systems in the world.

“So why then is the coalition embarking on a major NHS restructuring, cobbled together in just six weeks, which has been kept a secret to most of us and will destroy the NHS and the advances it has made for our country?”

He also warned that the cost of making such huge changes to the NHS wasn’t cheap, with the Coalition spending “at least £3bn” on the changes when £20bn of ‘efficiency savings’ were being squeezed from the NHS in the next three years.

He urged people to lobby their MPs in a bid to ensure the NHS did not suffer from excessive cuts.