Staff shortages threaten health services

STAFF shortages in Suffolk's NHS could mean services have to close because they are too dangerous to run, a health boss has admitted today.Uncertainty over their future has caused some staff to quit their jobs and a shortage of money means health trusts can not employ temporary staff to fill the gaps.

STAFF shortages in Suffolk's NHS could mean services have to close because they are too dangerous to run, a health boss has admitted today.

Uncertainty over their future has caused some staff to quit their jobs and a shortage of money means health trusts can not employ temporary staff to fill the gaps.

There are also fears that the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe could be forced to close through lack of staff - before the final decision is made on its future.

Officials have already admitted staff shortages, and say it will be difficult to recruit new staff to a hospital with an uncertain future.

Roy Gray, chairman of the Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals action group, said: “Two night nurses left last week to add to those who have already gone.

“Others are looking for new jobs because they are worried about what will happen and cannot afford to turn good jobs down if they come up - others don't want to stay and transfer to travelling care teams if the Bartlet does close.

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“The lack of staff could close the Bartlet - and that is a real fear.”

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts, said they are monitoring the situation across east Suffolk but admitted it could have an impact on services.

She said: “The issue for us now is whether we can maintain the level of beds with the staffing levels we've got. We have to make a judgement call on that almost every week.”

Mrs Taylor-Brown said that if a service became unsafe to run it would have to be closed and indicated that one of the first services to disappear could be the Bartlet's minor injuries unit.

Health trusts do not have to hold public consultation if they are closing something because it is deemed to be unsafe, but there would be much discussion between staff at all levels before any decision was made.

The news comes as the PCTs wait for health secretary Patricia Hewitt to make a decision on the future of community hospitals.

All of the trusts' plans to move towards community-based services have had to be put on hold until they hear back from her, leaving them in a Catch-22 situation when it comes to employing new staff.

Mrs Taylor-Brown said: “We can't fill posts willy-nilly. It doesn't make sense for us to actively recruit when we know we've got staff to redeploy.

“It's also not appropriate for us, with our current financial situation to be recruiting agency staff.”

Are you a member of staff affected by this situation? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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