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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Hospitals braced for job freezes
Two nurses examine a patient's case notes
Nurse post are among a number that may be subject to recruitment freezes
The prospect of hospital recruitment freezes is looming in the NHS as health bosses struggle to balance the books.

Two NHS trusts - one in Portsmouth and one in south London - have already placed restrictions on recruitment.

And the NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, is warning more may follow.

Nurse, administration and support posts are expected to be the worst hit after one in three hospital trusts recorded a deficit last year, latest figures show.

Alistair Henderson, deputy director of NHS employers, the pay negotiating arm of the NHS Confederation, said while the deficits did not amount to much compared to the overall NHS budget, they were substantial sums for individual trusts.

here are other, perhaps better, ways of tackling the problem
Tony Harrison, of the King's Fund

"The financial situation is quite pressing for some trusts, and there are a number of options open to them.

"I would expect some trusts to introduce freezes. It is the quickest way to make short-term savings."

He also said other NHS bodies such as primary care, mental health and ambulance trusts could face difficulties - although not as many of them are experiencing financial problems.

St George's Healthcare NHS Trust in Tooting, south London, has already imposed a freeze on all but the most essential posts to drive down its deficit by 20m.

And Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which is currently 1m in deficit, has also placed restrictions on recruitment, causing nurses who have just graduated from courses difficulty in finding jobs.

'Essential posts'

By March, bosses are hoping to trim their workforce of 8,000 by up to 500 by only filling the essential nursing and administration posts to maintain the quality of services.

David Eccles, the trust's human resources director, said the trust was still recruiting 25 nurses - down from about 75 last year - and urged graduates to be flexible in what they wanted to do.

The news comes just a week after the British Medical Association warned junior doctors were struggling to find jobs.

However, that situation arose through a surplus of junior doctors rather than a cut back in recruitment.

Tony Harrison, of health think-tank King's Fund, said it was understandable that some trusts would turn to recruitment freezes in the current climate.

But he said: "There are other, perhaps better, ways of tackling the problem.

"Hospitals could look to see more people as day cases rather than in patients, but this does take a longer time before money can be saved."

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