NHS jobs could go as Combined Healthcare faces fight for survival
MENTAL health trust Combined Healthcare is facing a fight for survival after being told its budget will be slashed by £10 million next year.
The reduction in its £83 million annual spend has forced the North Staffordshire organisation to start moves to be bought out by trusts from other areas.
Last night it put its long-standing bid to become a more autonomous Foundation Trust (FTs) under review, as union representatives pledged to fight any job losses.
And with Whitehall demanding all NHS bodies become FTs by 2016, the move could spell the end for Combined, which has run psychiatric and learning disabilities services for 20 years.
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Its bosses say frontline patient services will stay, but an unspecified number of white collar jobs could go if Combined is taken over.
In a briefing for its 1,900 staff, mental health trusts in South Staffordshire and Shropshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire were all identified as possibly acquiring Combined.
But another alternative, to put its services out to tender, prompted fears that care would become haphazard and could fall apart with thousands of patients left to suffer.
Trust chairman Ken Jarrold said its services were good enough to achieve FT status, but financial issues presented the biggest sticking point.
He said: "After the commissioners shared their intentions for the next financial year, the bottom line sees us receiving around £10 million less than in previous years.
"This poses a significant challenge for the organisation and its staff, who are already making huge efficiency savings as a result of the wider financial challenges facing the NHS nationally. The decision to review the FT application and potentially look at alternative options is to ensure the quality of services delivered in North Staffordshire remain of the highest standard."
Mr Jarrold could give no guarantee over redundancies, but said a takeover would see management and corporate roles vanish to avoid duplication.
Jenny Harvey, of Unison, said: "If the trust goes, we blame the lack of support from commissioners who, because of Government austerity, have looked to the market instead of the NHS to provide services.
"The biggest concern is jobs and we will fight to protect them."