Compulsory job losses at Royal Cornwall Hospital 'unlikely' says health boss
Hospital bosses said there was "no anticipation" of "massive" compulsory redundancies as part of a strategy to cut 650 jobs from the pay roll.
In a session which failed to quell the concerns of unions, the board of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) also refused to guarantee that nationally agreed terms and conditions for staff were off limits.
Jeannett Martin, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said she retained deep reservations.
"I am concerned with some of the details and how they will impact on outcomes," she said.
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"I am looking for the board to respond to concerns because they relate to patient safety and quality of patient care."
The Our People document compiled by chief operating officer Jo Gibbs aims to tackle staffing issues as acute hospitals like RCHT develop in the future and changes which will see more people cared for closer to home swing into effect.
According to the document presented to the board, over the next five years the number of full time equivalent posts is anticipated to be reduced from the current level 4,560 to 3,907.
Ms Gibbs told the board meeting at the Knowledge Spa in Truro that the way healthcare was delivered was changing.
She said: "There will be more care closer to home and more care provided by community partners."
There would be a "complexity of employment", implying staff would be drawn from other employees rather than the RCHT, she added. Moreover, Ms Gibbs rejected the idea of widespread compulsory job losses.
"There is no anticipation of this being managed through any sort of compulsory redundancy programme," she said. "This is about management of change rather than any massive compulsory redundancy programme."
However, in response to a question from the RCN regional director, Ms Gibbs was unable to offer assurances that hard-fought nationally agreed terms and conditions would be sacrosanct.
After being pressed a number of times, she responded to the question of whether the RCHT would not change national terms and conditions by saying: "I don't think we can make that promise at the moment."
In answer to concerns expressed about the "impact on quality of care if posts are being cut to save money", Ms Gibbs said there was "no intention to cut posts in clinical areas".
Outside the meeting, Ms Martin said she did not feel some of her questions had been answered satisfactorily.
"I am particularly concerned about the lack of assurances about national terms and conditions," she said.
The board heard that Our People had been a long-term project and non-executive director Douglas Webb praised the "excellent proposal" and said the trust would "continue conducting this work in a transparent way."
However, unions have been unanimous in their shock and surprise at the strategy.
Ms Martin said she certainly didn't know about it before it was included in the board papers.
She said the trust had work to do on that front: "I welcome the commitment to transparency and seeing that in action," she said.
"They have made a commitment and let's see them do it."
She added that the trust may have tried to be open in their proposals, but "if they have, they haven't been very successful.
"They need to up their game."