600 NHS jobs to go

Up to 600 jobs are going to be lost at one of the Thames Valley's biggest hospitals.

The posts are going to go at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading as its trust tries to make £60 million worth of savings in the next few years.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital Trust said frontline staff would not be affected by the cuts, which it hoped to achieve through people leaving not being replaced, but unions said frontline services were bound to be affected by such huge cuts.  They accused the Government of "conning" people into believing that its massive clampdown on public spending would not hit services.

The Trust, which has a hospital in Reading, an eye clinic in Windsor and provides some services at a hospital in Newbury, employs 4,500 staff.

Jobs to be cut will be in human resources, IT, facilities and general backroom roles, said a spokesman.

Heart's Michele Cross speaks to their Chief Medical Officer Dr Jonathan Fielden here.

The Trust's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jonathan Fielden, said: "Over the past few months we have shared with staff our triple aim of providing the best possible patient experience, the best possible health outcomes at the lowest possible costs.

"Everyone is now well aware that we are working to achieve our aim in a challenging financial situation which is facing the whole country and in particular the public sector.

"This year we have to identify and deliver a savings plan of £20 million (around 6.5% of our total budget), and over three years need to save a total of £60 million.

"This is the local effect of the £120 million savings across West Berkshire and £15-20 billion across the NHS.

"We have to make these savings to help meet the growing costs associated with increased life expectancy, medical advances, lifestyle changes and the greater demands these will place on the NHS in the coming years.

"One of the areas the Trust needs to look at is our workforce cost, which is the largest fixed cost - at over 60% of turnover.

"This year we will need to remove 200 posts, whilst protecting frontline delivery of quality patient care.

"We also anticipate that further consultations will take place in the coming years, with in the region of around 500 to 600 posts in total removed over the next three years.

"We will be able to reduce many of these posts both in the current year and in future through vacancies, staff turnover and retirements. Redundancy will always be a last resort.''

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "It is incredible for anyone to believe that with 600 job losses the front line will not be affected, because it depends on a team to make sure they deliver the best possible patient care.

"The Government is conning people into thinking that the front line will not be affected by these cuts.''

Geoff Martin of campaign group Health Emergency said: "You cannot make cuts and impose job losses at this kind of scale without dire consequences for patient care.

"Not only do these cuts, which are being mirrored in other trusts up and down the country, nail the lie that the NHS is immune from the Con-Dem axe, they will also spark off massive public resistance.''