Sunday, June 16, 2024

Hospitals Trust counters allegations by critics and campaigners as it seeks to turn round £80 million deficit

HOSPITAL bosses have countered accusations of using “cloak and dagger” tactics and keeping staff “in the dark” over a “voluntary severance scheme” reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

It also says it has a clear plan to climb out of the financial crisis which means it is expected to run at an £84.6 million deficit in the current financial year.

Earlier in the week the Save Southend NHS campaign group has slammed the “secrecy” of senior management at the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust after Unison claimed hospital bosses “want to let 150 staff go”.

The Trust has insisted the severance scheme is “purely voluntary” and will help it “redesign teams” and use “resources efficiently”.

However, a spokesman from the campaign group said: “As per usual, there is a complete lack of transparency regarding information shared from the mid and south Essex group regarding finances, job cuts and future plans for Southend Hospital.

“A nurse from Southend Hospital has this morning raised these concerns to our campaign, further confirming our fears that cloak and dagger operations are ongoing with staff kept in the dark who are met with inadequate responses from senior management.”

In April, it was revealed that 600 “whole time equivalent posts” would be slashed and only vacancies where there is an “immediate urgency” would be filled. And morale within the trust was said to have reached ‘rock bottom’.

At the time it was understood that many of the 600 jobs are long-term vacancies, however these posts may be covered by agency or bank staff.

Unison has claimed the trust was unable to confirm how the alleged 150 job losses relate to the announcement in April.

According to Unison, the “trust is proposing a mutually agreed resignation scheme, a form of voluntary severance, designed to enable employees, in agreement with their employer, to choose to leave their employment voluntarily in return for a severance payment”.

The trust has struggled with staff shortages and has a predicted £102million deficit –added to by a heavy reliance on expensive agency staff.

However, in the wake of the latest criticism it has issued a detailed rebuttal of the claims.

A statement says: “We wanted to provide an update and reassure you following recent media coverage on workforce changes and bed closures. 

“These schemes are linked to our financial recovery plan, which has been approved by NHS England and shared with stakeholders, staff and the media earlier this year.

“Staff have been kept fully informed and involved in our plans… At the heart of our changes is improving quality of care, ensuring we are spending taxpayers’ money responsibly and that patients are receiving care from the right people and in the right place.

“We are closing 26 beds on Stambridge ward in Southend, some of which were funded with winter escalation monies. It is normal to open additional beds in the winter when demand is at its highest and then shut them in the warmer months. 

“We are opening a further eight beds on Chalkwell ward, which specialises in elderly care. We are moving patients from Stambridge ward to Blenheim Ward, a renal and endocrine specialist ward in Southend hospital. We will also be expanding our Active Home Suite, when winter escalation funding is available, to support active discharges and reduce unnecessary stays in hospital.

“In Broomfield, we are closing 27 winter escalation beds and moving patients into different wards to enable us to make much needed improvements to the windows in Bardfield Ward.

“In an entirely separate scheme, we are rationalising our workforce to make sure we have people in the right roles across the Trust. Our headcount has grown by around 2,000 in recent years, and we need to ensure that is leading to an increase in productivity.

“A number of programmes of work are underway including reviewing long-term vacancies to see if those posts are truly needed, and a Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme for non-clinical staff.

“This scheme is purely voluntary and will offer us an opportunity to redesign teams.

“We have been working to reduce our financial deficit against a challenging backdrop for some time. As a system we spend £2.1billion each year and run one of the largest acute hospital trusts in the country.

“Our 2024/25 financial plan is a £84.6m deficit, including a £91.5m Improving Value target.

“NHS England recognised the challenges that we are facing as a system – and has moved the Trust into segment 4 of the National Oversight Framework.

“We know that working more efficiently also leads to better patient care, and any action we take will need to be sustainable and drive improvement clinically – not just financially.

“Our plans for financial recovery are wide-ranging, and we will be working as a healthcare system to deliver them as quickly as possible.”

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