Ipswich: Jobs threat as hospital grapples with spiralling �11.6m debt

Ipswich Hospital is today fighting for its financial life – with scores of jobs under threat as debt levels rocket.

On top of 100 jobs expected to be lost in 2011 as part of a cuts package already in place, a fresh swathe of cuts is on the cards at Heath Road.

Bosses are grappling with a spiralling �11.6million debt mountain – one which has rocketed by �7.6m this year alone.

The Evening Star understands up to 150 more jobs will go at all levels of the organisation as it makes a desperate bid to balance its books.

Chief executive Andrew Reed will meet with unions tomorrow to begin thrashing out the detail of the workforce cuts.

The hospital has racked up a whopping �7.6m shortfall this year alone as incomes have fallen away and staff costs soared.

It is understood senior figures were made aware of significant job cuts at a fraught meeting with Mr Reed earlier this week.

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It comes just four months after a damning report from the Care Quality Commission over serious failings into the care of older people at the Heath Road site.

But in a meeting with Whitehall mandarins and Health Minster Simon Burns last week, Mr Reed and his team were given firm backing for their fightback plans.

Mr Reed said he was alarmed about the financial deterioration but says he is focused on cutting costs while maintaining the quality of frontline services.

He said the financial problems had been caused by a drop in revenue – the number of emergency admissions has dropped meaning less money from the Government – while staff costs had soared, especially in the form of locum or agency staff.

But Dan Poulter, MP for north Ipswich and central Suffolk, rejected the idea that the hospital’s emergency admissions had fallen.

He said: “That has not happened in Suffolk, that’s rubbish, they have gone up. I have got data from the hospital saying emergency admissions are going up four or five percent a year.

“We know Ipswich Hospital was going to save 100 jobs through natural wastage but another 150 jobs is going to be difficult.

“I feel very sorry for those losing their jobs but the good news is the majority are back-office jobs. But I would not support the hospital if they cut frontline jobs.

“The underlying reason for this is that big debt that comes from the public-private arrangement for the Garrett Anderson building and the PCT making people wait longer for routine operations and that’s having a knock-on effect on hospital finances.”

Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “These are challenging times for the hospital and the direction of the NHS is changing.

“I think Andrew Reed is facing a challenging time and he needs to carry his staff with him.

“I do believe he’s got the right strategic direction and he needs support.

“It’s not easy to make these changes at the best of time. If people buy into the overall direction they need to show that support.

“If they can come up with a better way that’s part of the consultation they’re having currently.

“I think it’s right to be on our guard so that frontline services are not reduced.

“We have to keep a watching brief about how many services are taken away from Ipswich Hospital.”

Mr Reed said: “We’re alarmed at the deterioration over the last couple of months and it’s very important that we get our spending under control and that’s our clear focus.

“If you look at a typical hospital’s costs roughly 30 per cent is on consumerables and 70 per cent on pay and staff costs. So if you’re going to make big inroads into your cost base you’re going to have to reduce pay.

“We have got to make ourselves more efficient, more productive and maintain the standard of quality that we’re delivering. That makes the challenge very complex. It will mean reducing the workforce in line with these efficiencies.

“We have to remind ourselves we have an excellent record at keeping waiting times short and keeping infection rates low and it’s going to be really important to try and ensure these standards are maintained.”

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