Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 10:20 UK

Jobs fears over health cash cuts

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Dot Kirby reports on the recommendations contained in the proposals

By Fiona Murray
BBC News

Up to 3,000 health service jobs could be lost in Belfast, a trade union has warned.

It follows a leaked report which said nurses would be worst hit by cost-cutting proposals over the next three years in the Belfast trust area.

Brian Campfield of health union, Nipsa, said 2,700 to 3,000 could be affected by the radical plans.

However, the trust said it was "not planning to close or cut services" but looking at ways of doing things better.

The Irish News reported that "unprecedented" financial targets had to be met as part of government-led savings, with 130m to be cut from the trust's budget by 2011.

It said a radical review of patient services is to be carried out.

The paper said that job cuts would be achieved through early retirement and voluntary redundancy packages but, according to the leaked document, employees who persistently miss work should also be targeted.

Mr Campfield said he had not seen any leaked reports but was aware that union representatives had been consulting about cutbacks with the Belfast Trust.

Patient confidence

"The cutbacks arise from a number of sources, from the Comprehensive Spending Review, from the efficiency savings within that, and also from the deficit that the legacy trust carried over into the new Belfast Trust," he said.

"There are a range of factors coming together which have created a very difficult financial situation.

"The reality is that if we are talking about 3,000 less workers within the Belfast trust, then that is inevitably going to have a major impact upon the services that's delivered. I have no idea how the trust, or any other trust could make those sort of cutbacks and still maintain the level of service."

In a statement, the Belfast trust said all trusts in Northern Ireland had been asked to meet 3% efficiency savings target, set for the whole of the public sector. This would covers the next three years and has been agreed by the assembly.

"Media coverage of how trusts set about achieving these types of targets can often over simplify the issues - presenting them as cuts, closures or job losses," it said.

"However, that is not the case and it does not help an understanding of what is being done or build the confidence of patients, clients, carers and staff.

"We are not planning to close or cut services, but we are looking at better ways of doing things better. As part of that process we are discussing a range of options are taking a number of suggestions from front line staff. "


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