Unions say almost 250 Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS staff at risk of redundancy

Almost 250 jobs are at risk, including soem staff based at Berrywood Hospital , Duston
Almost 250 jobs are at risk, including soem staff based at Berrywood Hospital , Duston

Mental health patients will have to be admitted to hospital more regularly when the full impact of frontline job losses hits Northamptonshire, union bosses have said.

The Chronicle & Echo reported yesterday that NHS Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT) was holding a behind-closed-doors consultation about making community psychiatric nurses and other staff redundant. It comes as NHS Nene, which allocates money to NHFT, is looking to make about £30 million of savings on various cuts schemes.

The NHS has since failed to answer several questions put by the Chron, including specific figures of at-risk jobs and a breakdown by role.

Nevertheless, today it can also be revealed that:

- Although not all of those given redundancy notices will eventually lose their jobs, a total of 247 roles are at risk. However, as several of the roles are likely to be job shares, the number of actual members of staff at risk are probably more than that.

-Another consultation about cutting dementia services, which faced huge opposition from among others the former Labour MP Sally Keeble, has now been halted and is ‘under review’.

-The roles at risk include community psychiatric nurses along with specialists in the so-called ‘assertive outreach team’, who deal with mentally ill people who are not engaging with the NHS (usually those with additional drug and alcohol problems).

- Some support staff, such as medical secretaries are also at risk. The list is also believed to include a handful of consultants.

- The plan as it stands is to replace band 6 staff nurses with cheaper, less experienced band 5 staff, or else ask for volunteers to drop to the lower grade.

-The consultation will run until the end of May and there are no plans to consult with the public.

Peter Savage, regional representative for Unison, said: “It’s extremely shortsighted and simply shifts costs to another part of the NHS.

“What they are doing here is moving funds to load up the crisis teams instead of allocating it to nurses who are monitoring patients in their homes. The effect of that is crisis teams will know there’s a risk the patient may not be monitored as closely in the community any longer and, in order to be safe, will send more and more to crowded, expensive hospital beds.

“I don’t think that will save them much money.”

He added: “It is the same story as the now-aborted dementia plans; they say they’re doing this to make a more efficient service. No you aren’t, you are doing it to save money by getting rid of the more expensive staff.

“The trust pulled the dementia consultation and we can only hope they’ll now do the same with this one”

Unison said it feared the more experienced community psychiatric nurses will voluntarily leave as they do not agree with the proposals.

The NHS will therefore be able to say it had to make a small number of compulsory redundancies.

Those who transferred from band 5 to band 6, the union believes, will use their experience but will just be paid less than they should be.

Mrs Keeble, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Northampton North, said: “Similar to the failed plans to close Northamptonshire domestic violence refuges, the people at the top won’t be open about what is going on and the affect it will have on the public, who must be consulted.

“It’s pleasing to learn that the dementia service cuts may have been halted, but I am still very concerned that the cuts to these nurses’ jobs that now appear to be on the table will affect people with dementia too.”