Liz Smith 03/11/12

Workers at Rotherham General Hospital face compulsory redundancies, following a call by the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust to save £50 million from its £250 million budget over the next four years.

The Trust claims that to remain financially viable it will need to cut 750 jobs by 2015, which represents twenty percent of the current workforce. Chief Executive Brian James said, “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.”

It is expected that redundancy notices will be handed out before Christmas as the first one hundred posts are cut. Earlier this year over 60 jobs were lost in medical and surgical areas.

Nurses who were coming off the night shift explained that the hospital is already struggling for beds, citing as an example that the Accident and Emergency medical ward was completely full at the weekend.

May, a staff nurse, said, “I think it stinks. There are not enough nurses to look after patients as it is. They closed an elderly unit that was built specially. This has now been integrated with medicine, so the elderly are classed as medical patients and don’t have the specialist facilities.

“I have worked here forty years and it’s getting worse. They are gearing up towards privatisation. I can feel it and see it through the shutting of wards. You hear rumours, but don’t know specifically where the cuts are going to come. I’m proud to be a nurse and want to be able to do my job properly. Margaret Thatcher is to blame for all this. Through privatisation they have spent millions on a fancy front of building instead of on the patients.”

Another nurse explained that ten years ago there was a struggle over night shift money:

“They wanted to pay us off in a lump sum, but we couldn’t afford it. They wanted no night contracts. I think the unions know everything beforehand.”

A number of workers spoke about the new Electronic Patient System that was purchased for £50 million. They said that this was bought from a US company when it was known that it wouldn’t do the job. Rotherham agreed to trial the system, which nurses and clerical staff say is so cumbersome that it is a complete waste of resources.

UNISON representatives who have been part of previous restructuring at the hospital sought to play down the latest proposal to cut jobs by stating, “Nothing’s new about the savings. To talk about culling 750 jobs seems to be highly irresponsible and will have a massive impact on patient care.”

Within a week of the announcement being made Paul Johnson, UNISON head of health in Yorkshire and Humberside, stated, “Hospital managers are now prepared to talk about the scale of the job cuts, and we understand that the hospital’s board has already agreed to begin formal consultation on redundancies from December 1.”

Unison are calling on the hospital to explore alternatives, which will only mean cuts to services that are already cut to the bone.  An often heard argument is to cut administration jobs rather than clinical and nursing. Areas rumoured to be facing the axe are the A&E service being limited to day time only meaning night time emergencies travelling to Barnsley or Sheffield–over ten miles away. Paediatric care may now go to Sheffield Children’s Hospital or to Doncaster.