Fears of Government cash cuts at hospital

STAFF and services at Weston General Hospital could be under threat as the Government has singled out the trust that runs it for

STAFF and services at Weston General Hospital could be under threat as the Government has singled out the trust that runs it for a 'special review'.Whitehall health bosses identified 17 trusts across the country over concerns about their finances, including Weston Area Health Trust.Plans to help the trust climb out of the red include coming up with ways to save almost £9million this year.Cost-cutting initiatives will be drawn up with input from Government officials from the South West Strategic Health Authority (SHA) and the Department of Health.However, UNISON, a trade union which represents nurses, believes the massive cutbacks involved will further dent morale at the Grange Road site.Union spokesman Chris Howe said: "There are concerns that a cuts package might come forward."I can see the nurses becoming more demoralised bearing in mind the two key costs for hospitals are staff and services. We are very much afraid that something is going to give."The trust's new chief executive, Lorene Read, will unveil the savings plan at a meeting later this month. She said: "The trust's financial challenge is well-known already, but we are actively planning for a positive future."We have a forecast deficit for the recently-ended financial year 2006/07 of £6.7 million."However, we are planning to save £8.9 million in 2007/08 so we achieve in-year balance, with our monthly income regularly matching our monthly expenditure."We have the support of the SHA and the Department of Health in this approach, and are fortunate they fully recognise both the scale of our debt burden and the concentration of effort required to reduce it."Mr Howe says UNISON has not been consulted about the savings plan and is concerned that a board meeting on May 29 will be 'a rubber-stamping exercise'.David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, said: "Strategic health authorities are working through a review process with financially-challenged trusts to identify long-term solutions. Our absolute priority is continuity of patient care and that will not be disrupted.

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