Nurses fear wage cuts over debt crisis at University Hospital of North Staffordshire
HEALTH workers fear their salaries could be slashed to help ease spiralling debts at Staffordshire's biggest hospital.
Nurses have raised concerns as the University Hospital of North Staffordshire faces major financial problems, with auditors revealing its overspend could increase to a staggering £37million.
But despite the bleak figures, union leaders have vowed to fight any attack on the wages and conditions of the Hartshill unit's workforce of more than 6,000 staff.
A month after forecasting that the hospital would break-even, its directors are now predicting debts of £9.8 million by March.
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That defies a directive from Whitehall for the hospital to have retained a surplus of £2million.
And officials admit they will only be able to keep the deficit to £9.8 million if they receive a £14 million bale out.
They are pleading for the cash from the regional strategic health authority and two primary care trusts which commission most UHNS services.
As the crisis deepened, finance director John Maddison suddenly left the trust this week just 11 months after being appointed.
Health campaigners claim the crisis will put hundreds of jobs at risk.
Healthwatch co-ordinator Ian Syme said: "The only way to save £10 million is job cuts and it is the equivalent to 300 nurses' salaries."
But Unison leaders representing thousands of UHNS staff hoped no posts would go as many nurses have already been put on lower pay grades following a review last year.
Branch secretary Rob Irving said: "There is still room to reduce the growing number of managers but if nurses go, patients will be at risk and I can't see that happening. Instead they could look at cutting pay and conditions but that will cause uproar and be fought all the way."
The black hole emerged from Mr Maddison's finance report he had been due to give to a meeting of the trust's directors on Friday.
The report blames:
The extra costs of coping with an 11 per cent increase in patients attending A&E.
Fines of millions of pounds for keeping patients waiting too long and the loss of incentive payments for missing performance targets;
An over-reliance on doctors and nurses from agencies.
Rising monthly payments for private finance initiatives behind the financial structure of the new superhospital.
Mr Maddison's report states: "Even assuming additional income and external support of £14 million to cover the additional beds and staffing needed for increases in A&E attendance and emergency admissions, together with further projected increases over the winter, we forecast a deficit of £9.8million against a planned £2 million surplus."
Auditor Mark Stocks' report blamed the PCT-led Fit for the Future Programme for failing to reduce A&E activity – and uncertainty over the future of Stafford Hospital. He said: "The Trust continues to operate at a significant recurrent deficit, estimated as between £25million to £37million."