Stafford Hospital 'could lose emergency surgery'
Emergency services carried out at Stafford Hospital could be transferred to Stoke-on-Trent, a confidential document has shown.
The report, called "Shaping the Future of Local Health Care Provision", recommends - through a clinical working group - that all emergency surgery should be moved to University Hospitals North Staffordshire from Stafford.
It also suggests there should be a greater partnership between the two hospitals.
If services are transferred, it could have a serious impact on the hospital's finances, leaving it with a deficit of nearly £42m by 2014, partly due to the reduced income.
Mid Staffordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, also expects there to be fewer long-term chronically sick patients coming into hospital, again having an impact on income.
The document reveals the trust faces a £30.7m deficit in three years' time due to inflation as well as payments being frozen for the work it does.
However, due to fewer patients coming through the doors and cutting some services altogether, a further £11.7m would be added to that deficit.
"The recommended changes to services create additional challenges on top of the significant deficit," the document said.
One source has claimed it could mean more than 200 job losses.
The trust said these were only draft proposals and had not been adopted or approved.
Although the report said all emergency surgery would be transferred, a trust spokesman insisted that Stafford Hospital would continue to perform some of the operations.
However, they said the hospital would cease to do the highly complex emergency surgery - in line with national policy, which suggests that specialist complex surgery should be centralised at larger teaching hospitals.
The trust added that people with long-term conditions were too frequently admitted to hospital because of inadequate facilities in the community.
The spokesman said that in future more patients would be treated in the community and so there would be fewer patients coming into hospital.
The document also sets out ways in which money can be saved.
It says that if the hospital was to reduce the annual pay of full-time nurses earning £50,000 down to £36,000, it would save it £8m a year.
A reduction in consultants' annual pay from £82,000 to £71,000 would save £3.3m.
The plan also requires significant increases in productivity and improvements in bed usage.
'Reduce pay bill'
The NHS trust said the deficit was still being modelled and so it hoped the total amount it would owe would not be as much as £42m.
"We are not forecasting to have a deficit of this level by 2014/15 because we will have implemented savings to mitigate it," a spokesman said.
"We are not planning to pay our staff less. However, we are working to reduce our reliance on agency staff and this will enable us to reduce the premium pay bill for nursing and doctors."
He also said it had no plans to make redundancies.
The spokesman added: "Even if we were to decide to reduce posts in the trust, we have a natural turnover of staff of about 8% a year.
"Therefore over a four-year period, we could manage a reduction in posts."