Strike call at hospital

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STAFF are planning to ballot for strike action after Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust announced 74 people are at risk of redundancy.

The trust, which runs Pontefract, Pinderfields and Dewsbury hospitals, said the staff had been “provisionally selected” for redundancy, as it needs to shed 55 jobs in total.

The announcement is a result of a review of admin and clerical staff. Health union Unison is now balloting for industrial action amid the planned redundancies, as the trust tries to save £26m by next April to meet government budget targets.

Graham Briggs, director of human resources, said the trust would be meeting individually with affected staff, while it was also inviting volunteers for redundancy under its mutually agreed redundancy scheme (MARS).

He said: “We will work with staff to avoid compulsorary redundancy, of the pool of 74 provisionally selected for redundancy, the maximum who may be made redundant will be 55, if none of our mitigation measures work.

“We need to lose 55 jobs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 55 people being made redundant.”

Mr Briggs added: “I understand why staff would be unsettled by this process and feel strongly about it. Obviously they have the right to express their feelings, but I’m disappointed they feel they might want to formally ballot for strike action. I think that would be a retrograde step.”

However Unison is furious at the announcement as it revealed the trust had spent £2.6m on management consultants Ernst and Young, which was brought in last December to help cut costs.

The union is angry that the decision to hire Ernst and Young was made at a private meeting held in September 2011.

Adrian O’Malley, of Unison’s Mid Yorkshire Trust branch, said: “At the same time as every department has to cut ten to 20 per cent from its budget because of government targets, the trust is squandering thousands every month without any checks or balances. It’s totally unacceptable.

“We want to know how much more they are going to spend on this company.”

Carole Langrick, the trust’s chief operating officer, said Ernst and Young had been brought in to carry out a “detailed review” of the trust’s financial position.

She said: “Having done that, Ernst and Young have since been working to support us by providing additional capacity to help us put together plans and support us in delivering plans that address the significant financial challenges the trust faces.

“It is also helping us put together strong and robust financial governance systems to help us get in a good position going forward and help us with our future sustainability.”

The contract with Ernst and Young runs until next March, but can be terminated by the trust at an earlier date.

Mrs Langrick added: “The use of an organisation such as Ernst and Young is not unusual for organisations like us, facing the challenges we face.

“We have needed that additional capacity, but once we have got over that it wouldn’t be something we see as an ongoing requirement.”

She said an example of the work Ernst and Young had been doing was helping the trust benchmark its departments against other trusts, to ensure they were working efficiently.

Mrs Langrick added: “They have helped us benchmark how we perform on a range of efficiency measures and productivity measures – how many people we treat, how many staff we employ to treat those patients, against other trusts to see if there are things we could be doing better, and working through a range of our specialties, and I think it has been a very useful thing to do.”