Belfast Telegraph

Nearly 80 temporary staff facing axe in Western Trust

By Donna Deeney

Almost 80 temporary medical staff will lose their jobs as part of a £7million cutback imposed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust, but plans to merge rehabilitation and palliative care wards at one hospital have been "paused".

While 77 workers will join the dole queue, senior management at the Western Trust said “not one permanent member of staff” would lose their job.

The trust employs 13,000 people, of which 990 have temporary contracts, and the majority of cuts will be from the administrative sector.

While no permanent members of staff will lose their jobs, some workers on leave such as those on maternity will not be replaced, and in a case where someone retires their job may not be filled.

The trust’s annual budget, which is more than £550million, was overspent £15million, and the board agreed, after looking at the level of service provided by the trust, that it was not possible to claw back all of the overspend in this financial year.

Responsibility for filling the deficit has now been passed to the Department of Health.

Chief Executive of the Western Trust Elaine Way said the money being spent on locum doctors accounted for a huge slice of their overall staff costs, and that this was one area where cuts will be made.

She added: “The approach which has been taken in this organisation is that we are absolutely determined to put patient and client safety at the centre of all we do.

“We have said quite clearly we have to cut the amount of money we are spending on nursing agency staff and nursing staff.

“There are a number of difficulties we face in the West, in particular the number of locums.

“The majority of people who train in Belfast tend to go for permanent jobs in the greater Belfast area, so therefore we spend more on locums for covering posts than elsewhere.”

Last year, the Western Trust spent a total of £4.4million on providing medical locums, but this will be slashed, along with the costs of agency and bank nursing, to the tune of £3million, shared across Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh.

In Omagh, hospital plans to introduce a new urgent care and cardiac unit have been been put on hold.

Additionally, proposals for a paperless trust have meant that four staff employed in a scanning team are among those who will be out of work.

The cuts will mean a total of 38 beds across the Trust will close, but controversial plans to merge two wards in Omagh hospital have been put on the back burner for three months.

Ms Way said: “We are not heartless and faceless people, and even though we are facing the biggest challenge everywhere, we are down the back of the sofa looking for money.

“We listened when people told us about their concerns about merging the rehabilitation ward and the palliative care wards in Omagh.

“We have decided to pause this merger for three months, but the reality remains that we still need to make savings of £7million from somewhere.”

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