MORE than 1,000 NHS staff in the North East could face redundancy as a result of the Government’s controversial healthcare reforms.
Leaked documents obtained by The Journal show NHS trade unions have received an official letter informing them of potential job losses at primary care trusts throughout the region.
It is thought a total of 1,367 posts could be affected in a “worst-case scenario”.
Unions are working with local management to try to keep the number of redundancies as low as possible.
As part of the Health and Social Care Act, which came into force earlier this year, all PCTs will cease to exist from April 1 next year.
They will then be replaced by GP-led clinical commissioning groups.
Although it is expected that many staff will be transferred to the new organisations, there is no legal requirement for the commissioning groups to use the support services or staff from the PCTs.
The news of the possible widescale redundancies has angered MPs and union leaders, who warn that it could negatively impact upon patient care.
Nick Brown, Newcastle East MP said: “This news seems to mean that all 1,300 primary healthcare jobs in the north of the region are at risk.
“I don’t see how that many jobs can go without starting to have a serious effect on patient care. It is likely that some staff will be rehired by the new commissioning authorities, making the redundancies both unnecessary and expensive for the taxpayer.
“Threatening wholesale redundancies will cost a lot more, cause a great deal of uncertainty and above all put at risk the service received by patients.”
The letters were sent to NHS staff representatives last week.
Employees will be affected at PCTs across the North East including Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Gateshead and County Durham.
A formal consultation with trade unions will take place to look at ways to avoid and reduce the number of redundancies, and mitigate the effects of any job losses.
It is expected that no redundancies will take effect until after September 30 this year, at the very earliest. The NHS letter states: “It is not possible to identify with certainty the number and description of employees who may be affected at this stage, as this is a matter of consultation.
“However, the reductions will fall within staff employed in all roles within the PCTs.”
In 2010, NHS North East announced management savings across the North East Strategic Health Authority and PCTs would result in an anticipated reduction of 516 posts.
It is believed the potential redundancies highlighted are in addition to this.
Glenn Turp, RCN Northern Region director said: “The RCN is working closely with our partner health trade unions and with NHS management across the region.
“And we would hope that there will be no compulsory redundancies, and that any staff losses can be managed through natural attrition. We also hope that those staff who want to transfer to the new clinical commissioning group organisations will be able to do so, but negotiations continue.
“It is vital that the depth of skills and experience that is in the current workforce is not lost to the service.
“But the key thing to remember is what this all means for the patient.
“This is an unnecessary, centrally driven reorganisation by the coalition Government that has the potential to undermine the quality of patient care.
“Although everyone who works in the NHS is committed to making it work, the view of frontline clinical professionals remains that this has the potential to go very badly wrong.”
NHS North of Tyne, working on behalf of Newcastle PCT, North Tyneside PCT and Northumberland Care Trust, said it was committed to avoiding redundancies where possible. A spokesperson said: “We have started consultation with staff-side, in line with our statutory employment obligations, on any potential redundancies as a result of the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act.
“From April 1 2013 Primary Care Trusts will be phased out and a number of new organisations, including clinical commissioning groups and a commissioning support organisation, will be established.
“We are working closely with staff-side and the emerging organisations and are reassuring staff that we are committed to do whatever we can to avoid redundancies.”