Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jobs to go at West Cumberland Hospital

According to a report by Gillian Ellison in today's Whitehaven News, 400 jobs are to be lost at the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals trust which runs West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle, representing about 10% of the trust's employees.

There is expected to be a programme of voluntary redundancies combined with redployment and natural wastage: large scale redundancies are not expected.

West Cumberland hospital is one of the largest employers in West Cumbria and this is not good news for the area: it also comes at when the people employed by the trust have been having a difficult time and this will mean further stress for them.

I hope the trust will make every effort to resolve the situation quickly without compulsory redundancies so that the employees know where they stand.

The full Whitehaven News report is as follows:

"A REDUCTION of approximately 400 staff working across West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary is anticipated over the next two years – but it is expected that many will be redeployed.

Health bosses have given assurances that there will not be any mass redundancies as has happened elsewhere in the country.

The Trusts’s draft Annual Business Plan 2008/09 gives an estimated 10 per cent reduction in the workforce anticipated over the next two years as a result of new ways of working under Closer to Home.

Marie Burnham, chief executive of North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust, which manages the hospitals, said: “This Trust Board has never been in the business of massive wholesale redundancies. Other trusts have done that but it’s never been our intention to do that.”

She said that there could be individual redundancies but not “large chunks of staff”.

A proposal for a voluntary severance scheme will be developed for posts that will no longer be required and many staff will be redeployed to work in a community setting.

As care starts to be provided differently, with less emphasis on acute care and more on community provision nearer to where people live, staff will be required to work differently.

The draft plan, presented to the Trust Board this week, sets out how health care, finances and staff will move forward over the next year.

Sustainable services have to be provided within health budgets. Expensive NHS locum staff will only be employed in an emergency situation and posts will only be replaced “if there is a clear need to do so otherwise the post will be disestablished”.

At this week’s Trust Board meeting, Christine Wharrier, Unison union convenor at West Cumberland Hospital, said: “Ten per cent – that’s quite a number of staff considering how many the Trust employs (about 4,000).”

Miss Burnham added that it has always been in the public domain that the Trust would be down-sizing as a result of Closer to Home but she stressed that many staff would be redeployed.

Mrs Wharrier said that there would be a need for in excess of 250 staff out in the community over the next three years.

After the meeting she added: “My main problem was where the projected figure came from.

“Unions are invited to all levels of meetings at the Trust – whether or not they influence decisions at those meetings remains a question.”

At the meeting, Caroline Griffiths, director of strategic planning, said the numbers were just estimates at the moment."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Acute Trust chairman appointed

The SHA has moved quickly to fill the post of Chairman of the North Cumbria Acute Services NHS Trust, following the retirement of Eric Urquhart. The new Chairman is Mike Little, and I was introduced to him by Eric Urqhart at last night's Annual Meeting of Copeland Council.

Mike Little is a former operations manager for Border/Granada Television and has many years experience as a magistrate. He chairs the family and youth courts and is a past chairman of Cumbria Magistrates’ Courts Committee. He was born in Cumbria and has lived in Whitehaven as well as Carlisle.

Mike will face a huge challenge with all the the issues facing both West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary. On the basis of my initial conversation with him I did form the impression that he is well aware of the scale of that challenge and is willing to listen to people.