NHS to lose 50,000 jobs, trade unions say

North Staffordshire Hospital North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent is among those highlighted in the report

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More than 50,000 NHS jobs will be lost across the UK over the next five years as a result of government spending cuts, unions say.

The TUC-backed False Economy group used replies to freedom of information requests to produce its picture.

It said 53,000 jobs were already due to go, with more losses to be announced.

The government accused the unions of "scaremongering" and the Conservative Party said the research was "deeply suspect" and "deliberately misleading".

False Economy highlighted the following "cuts":

  • East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust expects to shed 1,013 full-time equivalent staff, including 50 doctors and dental staff, 270 nurses, midwives and health visitors
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is cutting 682 full-time equivalent posts
  • University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust is forecasting a reduction of 1,349 full-time posts
  • Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is losing 461 full-time posts
  • Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is cutting 1,755 full-time posts, including 120 doctors and dentists, and 620 nurses
  • Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust plans to get rid of 1,115 full-time posts

The group said the total number of confirmed, planned and potential NHS staff cuts across the country was more than 53,000 and it added that more NHS trusts were expected to announce staff cuts over the next four months, including all Welsh health boards.

Its report says most of the job losses "are likely to be achieved through natural wastage rather than compulsory redundancies" but says large staff cuts are likely to have an impact on patient care.

'Natural wastage'

But the Conservatives said the headline figure included jobs in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, despite the coalition government having no responsibility for the NHS in these regions.

The party pointed out that "cuts" included "natural wastage" and vacant posts that were being withdrawn - some of which were due to "new models of care" rather than funding.

Analysis

Putting NHS jobs cuts into perspective is tricky. Headlines saying 'thousands of jobs to go' make worrying reading.

But the NHS is the third largest employer in the world. It has a workforce of 1.4m people in the UK - just over 1m of which work in England.

In the past decade there has been a huge rise in the numbers employed. Clinical staff alone have risen by a third since 1999, according to latest NHS figures.

But even if all the jobs being reported did go it would not even take the NHS back to what the staffing levels were just a few years ago. During 2009 the workforce grew by 60,000 alone.

What should also be remembered is that some of the job cuts will be in management and admin areas. It is also likely new jobs will be created in the community as care moves away from hospitals under the creation of GP consortia.

Nonetheless, even the smallest cuts will be noticeable on hard-pressed hospital wards.

What remains clear is that the NHS is facing one of its toughest periods. While the budget is being protected, it is still being asked to make unprecedented savings. Only time will tell what effect these will have on the front-line.

The party said the report was "deliberately misleading" and said that the 1,349 staff leaving the University Hospital of North Staffordshire would still be employed in NHS community centres.

Deputy Conservative chairman Michael Fallon said: "The more this report is scrutinised, the clearer False Economy's shameless and deeply irresponsible scaremongering becomes... Their research is deeply suspect and the organisations they are citing are setting the record straight."

Royal Devon and Exeter chief executive Angela Pedder dismissed the figures quoted for her trust as "planning assumptions".

She added: "Over the last year we have been working with our partners to understand the likely impact of the efficiency savings that need to be made across Devon."

Ms Pedder also said that, "with the level of turnover and retirements we have, coupled with a strong commitment to re-skilling and redeploying staff, we are confident that we can meet this challenge without resorting to compulsory redundancies".

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said it had "no plans" to cut 461 posts.

'More doctors'

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We promised to reduce NHS bureaucracy and plough this money straight back into patient care, and that is exactly what we are delivering.

"Since last May, there are almost 2,500 more doctors, more nurses and more midwives - and 2,000 fewer managers."

However, for Labour, shadow health secretary John Healey said the government was piling extra pressure on the NHS "with its huge, high-cost reorganisation": "David Cameron promised to protect the NHS but cuts on this scale will hit patient care, and there's a big risk that we will now see the NHS go backwards."

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said slashing posts was a false economy: "Even cuts to backroom staff frequently have an impact on clinical workers, who have to pick up the administrative burden."

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dr Peter Carter said even though many trusts were facing financial difficulties, cutting jobs and services "is never the answer".

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison, said job losses meant patient care would be "an early casualty".

But Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said: "The NHS faces an absolutely massive financial challenge and job losses are a very sad but inevitable consequence of that.

"Employers have told us they want to do everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies."

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