Bosses not up to job at RLI, says union

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Health staff at Morecambe Bay’s NHS Trust say they have little confidence in their managers as proposals to reduce bed numbers are made.

In a statement, public service trade union Unison said that University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT) is proposing to reduce bed numbers by 100, starting from June, including the closure of wards five and six at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Proposals also include the reduction of gynaecological beds at the RLI and Furness General Hospital from 38 to 18 from June 2013.

But the trust, although not specifically commenting on the reduction of bed numbers, has hit back, saying that over the past year it has increased its workforce by 197 – the majority occupying front line clinical roles.

Tim Bennett, the trust’s finance director also said that during the same period, it had spent an extra £2m on doctors and £2.6m on nurses.

Anger is also mounting over claims that executive pay at the trust has risen by 25 per cent in the last year, management consultancy costs have risen by 300 per cent to £4.6m per year and locum and agency costs have risen to £12m annually.

Mr Bennett said: “Consultancy spend has increased during last year although not by the 300 per cent that has been quoted elsewhere. “The rise from £1,550,000 to £4,578,000 (195 per cent) includes over £1m on establishing a Programme Management Office on instruction from our regulator Monitor.

“The PMO is a recognised means of ensuring rapid improvements in performance which we have seen in the last year.

“We have also incurred additional consultancy costs associated with developing a recovery plan and as part of the wide engagement process on our clinical strategy.

“Both of these are essential to the successful development of the longer term strategy for healthcare in Morecambe Bay.

“It is also worth baring in mind that the Trust received additional financial support of £10m in 2012/13 to support the improvements in services and the development of the strategy.

“In other words the extra costs that we have incurred have not had to be found out of our normal funding.” Tim Ellis, regional organiser for Unison said: “The trust says it has got to balance the books, but we say its first duty is to patients, but the trust is pressurised to make its cuts so it removes logic from the situation.

“Bed occupancy on the trust is very high, and there is concern as to whether the trust can reduce bed stays without clinical risk over the timescales proposed.

“There is no new community or social care provision to aid reduction in bed number pressure. Health staff and clinicians...have clearly stated the proposals could cause concrete harm to patient care and increased clinical risk to patients.

They have little confidence in the trust’s proposals or their management of the matter.

“The trust needs to turn around and say ‘we can’t do what we’re doing without causing clinical risk to patients’.”

The trust said that patient safety was its number one priority, and claims that 230 staff were in line for redundancy were not correct, and it would not make any changes that would ultimately effect patient safety.