Job losses loom at hospital as chiefs try to plug £50m hole

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Health chiefs have revealed there will be job losses at Preston and Chorley hospital as they battle to slash a massive £50m from their budget.

Managers at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, which runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals, say that at this stage there are no plans for compulsory redundancies, but that there will be a reduction in headcount as they attempt to cut their pay bill.

As part of the Government’s plans for £20bn of NHS savings, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has to make around £50m of efficiency savings over a three-year period.

At the moment, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has an annual expenditure of £360m, which means the budget for three years will exceed £1bn.

The hospital trust has the challenging target of making £21m of savings by April 2012 and then a further £15m for each of the following two years.

Hospital chiefs have unveiled a series of measures they have identified to make the drastic cuts, including:

- Reducing the number of theatre sessions and clinics

- Getting the best possible price for everything from stationery to clinical supplies

- Improving the discharge process to reduce the length of hospital stay for patients

- Slashing the wage bill by reducing the need for temporary staff

The trust has already identified £15m of savings for this year through measures such as a reconfiguration of beds and merging of services, but has admitted there is a £6m blackhole which must be plugged by April.

It is unclear what the cuts will mean for patients.

Paul Havey, director of finance at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We need to make these savings as anything we don’t achieve this year will have to be done over the following two years.

“At the moment, we have got £15m of schemes identified, but it is the missing £6m that is a concern.

“A lot of the measures we have come up with are about general efficiencies such as improving the throughput of theatre sessions and outpatient clinics.

“This will mean more patients being put through to reduce the number of theatre sessions and clinics, which will in turn reduce costs.

“We are also looking to reduce the length of stay for patients in hospital as there are still areas where our lengths are longer than average.”

However, Mr Havey insists that no patient services will be stopped as part of their cost-cutting plans nor are there any plans to get rid of Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.

He said: “At this stage, there are no plans for compulsory redundancies, but it is highly likely there will be voluntary redundancies as we try to reduce the headcount.

“However, we are also looking to cut our pay bill in other ways.

“At the moment, we pay a lot of money out for ad hoc sessions to meet targets.”

Tim Ellis, regional officer for health union UNISON, said: “This level of coalition austerity cuts will place Lancashire Teaching Hospitals trust in great difficulty.

“We know the trust will undertake all efforts to maintain patient care, but this scale of cuts will make that very difficult for them.”