Concerns QA job cuts will affect patient safety

The Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.
The Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.

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UNIONS say patients could be put at risk as health officials announce up to 99 jobs could go at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust says it is having to axe more jobs at the Cosham hospital because it has to make £30.5m worth of savings this year.

But unions fear shedding more staff will have an impact on patient safety and some services could have to stop.

Mike Wilson, regional organiser of Unison, said: ‘There’s a serious risk of compromising patient safety. If health workers are already saying that it’s impossible to deliver services because they don’t have enough staff, this is only going to make that worse and then you get to the point where they cannot run the service in a safe way and therefore cannot run the service at all. The worst thing is to try and deliver a service and cause patient deaths because there’s not enough staff.

‘People will try to do the work of two posts because they care about the hospital and patients, and they don’t want to see services go. But the pressure will break people. This is going to have a terrible effect.’

Meanwhile Jock McLees, chairman of the Portsmouth Local Involvement Network, the city’s patient group, said: ‘We are beginning to be concerned because we feel that with the cuts that have already been made, people are telling us that staff are stretched.

‘We have yet to see patient safety be put at risk. But we will be keeping an eye on the situation.’

The hospital trust has invited all 6,100 of its staff – including doctors and nurses – to apply for voluntary redundancy by April 29. If too few come forward, hospital bosses will look to make compulsory redundancies.

But hospital chief executive Ursula Ward says patient safety will remain the top priority.

She said: ‘Every post will be assessed to make sure it’s not to the detriment of patient care and safety. We need to make sure patient care is protected at all costs.’

Ms Ward, who also said she cannot rule out further redundancies this year, added: ‘Redundancies aren’t good news. It’s not a nice thing to have to do, and understandably there will be some anxiety in the trust. That’s why we want to get through the process fairly quickly.

‘We don’t want to have to do this but we have to make savings and the workforce is our biggest expenditure.’

Portsmouth’s hospital trust is not alone in having to make savings. Every trust has had to think of ways to spend less because the NHS as a whole was last year told it had to make £20bn worth of efficiency savings by 2014.

This year hospitals will also be hit with a 1.5 per cent reduction in tariffs for work – which means less money for carrying out treatment, and less income because more care is being moved out of hospitals and into the community.