Jobs and beds to go in latest hospital cuts

NURSES say patient care will suffer when Weston General Hospital cuts 60 jobs and 56 beds to save £11million. The debt-ridden hospital revealed

NURSES say patient care will suffer when Weston General Hospital cuts 60 jobs and 56 beds to save £11million.The debt-ridden hospital revealed on Tuesday that it will merge wards, reduce beds and cut jobs from May to save money over a two-year period.It will reduce and join its short stay ward with the general medical Kewstoke Ward. A total of 32 orthopeadic and general surgery beds will be lost along with eight rehabilitation beds.Unison said 60 of the hospital's 1,400 full-time positions will be lost. But the hospital put the figure at 53, all nurses and managers, and says the posts will go through 'natural waste', where staff leave and are not replaced.Shocked medical staff called the Weston & Somerset Mercury hours after hearing the news. One said: "I am a senior nurse and a great believer in changes for the better, but I can't see how this is a change for the better. It will be slashing nurses. That's got to have a huge knock on effect."I think the problem is an old one and is coming up now. I have a lot of respect for the new chief executive, Mark Gritten, although he delivered the bad news to us."Another, who also did not want to be named, said: "It is the last thing anyone wants. Morale is low enough anyway." Unison said Government funding is to blame for the job losses. Regional officer Liz French said: "This is one of the most prudent trusts in the South West. These cuts aren't a result of mis-management, but because of the way that Government is now funding trusts."In Parliament on Wednesday, Weston's MP John Penrose asked Tony Blair to intervene personally. The Prime Minister said he would be happy to look into the matter.A hospital spokesman said North Somerset and Somerset Coast primary care trusts had become more effective at treating people at home and the hospital will be used by fewer people for shorter periods of time. They said: "What we are doing is changing the way we provide the care, so there's change at the hospital, but not a deterioration of patient care."Chief executive Mark Gritten said: "It is important to state that these savings are to be made through service and delivery changes and not through drastic organisational change."All of these suggestions were already part of the hospital's strategic plan for the future, but the financial imperative means we are making this drive for greater efficiency slightly faster than originally envisaged.