More than 50,000 doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are set to lose their jobs over the next four years, according to the largest survey undertaken since the coalition government came to power.
The study is based on a series of Freedom of Information requests asking for “confirmed, proposed or potential” job losses over the period. They were submitted to health Trusts by union umbrella organisation the TUC as part of its False Economy campaign against public spending cuts, which is launched today.
Nearly every Trust in the country admitted that they planned to cut staff over the next four years, with some losing up to one in five personnel. But more than a dozen hospitals failed to respond to the FoI requests, indicating that the true level of job losses could be even higher.
The data revealed that 53,150 posts are due to be axed across 155 hospital Trusts, 126 primary care Trusts, 23 ambulance Trusts and 54 mental health Trusts in England as well as 15 Scottish Trusts, nine Welsh Trusts and six Trusts in Northern Ireland. The cull will be felt by doctors, nurses and dentists as well as administrative staff.
Prominent examples of big job losses include the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, which expects to remove 1,349 full-time equivalent posts between 2011 and 2015 – 22.5% of its entire workforce. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust plans to cut 1,013 FTE staff from 2010/2015, while Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will reduce the number of FTE posts by 682 between 2010 and 2013.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, warned that slashing posts represented a “false economy”. “Doctors and other NHS staff across the UK are working hard to deliver services more efficiently. Even cuts to backroom staff frequently have an impact on clinical workers, who have to pick up the administrative burden,” he said.
But Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS bodies, said that the health service faced an “absolutely massive” financial challenge and that job losses were “a very sad but inevitable consequence of that”.
“Employers have told us they want to do everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies,” he added.
Some hospital chiefs, meanwhile, tried to dispute the figures. Some said that they did not recognise the data, while other said that it did not take into account moves to redeploy staff elsewhere. But the TUC pointed out that Trusts had provided the information themselves.
The Department of Health also tried to play down the situation. A spokesman said that, while the coalition government was “unapologetic” about cutting managerial posts in the NHS, doctor and health visitor numbers had increased since the election.
“This is scaremongering from the unions. We promise to reduce NHS bureaucracy and plough this money straight back into patient care, and that is exactly what we are delivering,” he added.