A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.
The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.
But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.
In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.
But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.
More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.
It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition
“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “
Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:
“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015
Union bosses have “vigorously” opposed a pay cut for nurses working overtime to cover busy periods and staff shortages.
Nurses who work overtime to cover busy periods at two hospitals serving people from Hartlepool and East Durham have had their hourly rates slashed by a cash-strapped health trust in a move that the Royal College of Nursing described as “completely unacceptable”.
Bank staff who are called upon by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have always been paid at the top of the pay band.
But as of today, that hourly rate will drop significantly, with nurses on one of the pay scales seeing their hourly rate drop from £20 to around £14.
That amounts to a 28 per cent cut, with nurses being informed of the changes when a letter was sent out on December 16.
The letter also said that the new pay rate will be applicable to any shifts after today which were booked in prior to the changes being implemented.
The NHS spends hundreds of millions of pounds a year on temporary staff, but has often been forced to find cover at the last minute with staffing resources having been cut.
Staff who qualified for extra shifts at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees were made up of nurses who signed up to work additional shifts, or ones who are not affiliated to any health trust and can work as and when they are required.
Heather Whitton, the Royal College of Nursing’s union officer responsible for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“The position of the Trust is completely unacceptable, and the RCN is vigorously opposing this move.
“Nurses have already been subject for pay freezes and pay restraint for some years, so this is a slap in the face to many hard-working nurses.
“We are also challenging other trusts in the region who are also proposing to adopt this policy.”
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust insists it has always paid bank staff from the top pay scale, and claims the hourly reduction will bring it into line with other trusts.
A spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said:
“From January 1, 2015, the trust will bring itself into line with neighbouring trusts and pay staff employed through NHS Professionals on point 3 of the pay scale.
“When the trust first introduced NHS Professionals to hire bank staff it paid at the top point of the pay scale.
“However the challenging financial climate, and the recognition that it was out of line with neighbouring trusts, resulted in the decision to now pay at point 3 on the pay scale.
“Staff from other trusts are registered with NHS Professionals and our staff may be registered with other trusts’ NHS Professionals systems so to count the number of people working for the agency could be misleading.
“We looked at possible cost savings by estimating a total year’s impact from one month’s worth of the hours we booked with the agency to cover shifts because of leave, seasonal pressures, providing one to one care for high dependency patients, increases in workload and vacancies.
“We estimated the trust would save around £69,000 a year by paying the adjusted rate.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 14 Jan 2015
Hundreds of people gathered to protest against the removal of NHS services from a Teesside hospital.
Over 800 people joined forces to take part in the Save Hartlepool Hospital Protest Walk.
The event was organised by Sue Little in response to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s decision to move services out of the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the trust’s other base – the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.
Services lost in the town include the children’s ward, maternity and the A&E department, which closed in August 2011 after being declared unfit for purpose.
Now, people with minor injuries are seen at NHS centre One Life Hartlepool and those with more serious cases are taken to Stockton.
And with fears that the ‘super-hospital’ at Wynyard, which was due to replace both hospitals within the trust, will never get off the ground, residents fear the prospect of having North Tees as their local hospital.
Communities in East Durham, as far as Easington, are also affected as patients must travel to Stockton rather then the nearer Hartlepool.
No decision on any of the services is expected before a General Election.
“We’re all annoyed about what has happened to our hospital and the services being moved to Stockton,” said Sue, a mum-of-three from Seaton Carew. “This is why we are here.
“We want to send a message loud and clear to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust that we are not going to lie down on this matter. We want our services back.”
“The turn out has been fantastic,” she added. “I want the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to see this strength of feeling.”
Saturday’s walk started at Seaton Carew bus station and ended at the hospital.
There were dozens of stewards helping out, as well as a police presence and a support vehicle following the marchers.
Another supporter at the march was Keith Fisher, chair of the Save our Hospital group.
The 72-year-old said: “We are not saying we want services here instead of at Stockton – we want them at both.
“The first march that ever took place was to save our hospital and then we were protesting to keep our A&E. Now we are demanding we get out services back.”
Edna Wright, a former Liberal Democrat representative on Hartlepool Borough Council from 1991 until 2012, has been heavily involved in the hospital fight for many years.
She said: “I have been fighting against this move for 14 years when they first wanted to transfer cancer services to Middlesbrough.
“I said this hospital would go bit by bit, limb by limb and it has.
“North Tees can’t cope by itself and they are not admitting that – this hospital is being used behind closed doors and it needs to be kept open.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 Jan 2014
Cancer nurses at an award-winning unit face the prospect of re-applying for their own jobs after health bosses unveiled more cost-cutting plans.
Senior staff working at the chemotherapy unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool have been told that they will be interviewed for the jobs they are already doing as the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust looks to make more changes to services at the Holdforth Road site.
Bosses have confirmed that staff are being “consulted” about how the unit is staffed, but moved to reassure patients the level of service would not be affected if and when any changes are made.
It was revealed in September that the haematology unit at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, was being axed after Trust chiefs drew a blank in their search for new consultants.
Patients were reassured then that the move would have no impact on the existing chemotherapy service at Hartlepool.
But after plans were leaked , one staff member has accused Trust bosses Alan Foster and Paul Garvin of treating nurses with “total disrespect”.
Grandmother Brenda Cook, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the end of May last year and spent time at the unit undergoing gruelling bouts of chemotherapy, said it is a “disgrace”.
Brenda, 67, from Hartlepool, said the changes to the unit is a “crying shame”.
The Hartlepool unit has been a regular winner of the Hartlepool Mail’s Pride of Hartlepool awards in recognition of the care and support afforded to cancer patients by nurses.
It has won a special recognition award in the Mail’s Best of Health awards last year after winning the Team of the Year award in the four previous ceremonies.
A spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We are currently consulting on the team structure of the chemotherapy and haematology service in the trust.
“The changes which have yet to be agreed will have no impact on the nursing care that patients receive.”
Save Our Hospital campaigner Keith Fisher said:
“How many times have they told us one thing and then done another?
“When they made the changes at North Tees cancer unit they said it wouldn’t affect Hartlepool.
“This isn’t about saving money, it’s about saving lives.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 05 Jan 2015
A cash-strapped health trust is spending what has been described as an “obscene” £350,000 to relocate offices of its management and other services.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright says the cash for the “flashy” offices at the town’s hospital could have been better used keeping two hospital-based nurseries open for at least 18 months.
The repositioning of the rooms at the University Hospital of Hartlepool comes at a time when services are being stripped away and shifted to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton.
But bosses at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation trust, which is £1.25m in deficit, say the move is part of centralising remaining services in the main tower block of the Holdforth Road site and will save £550,000 on running costs.
A disgruntled trust worker told the Mail that a number of offices, including a chief executive’s office with en-suite toilet, chairman’s office, a boardroom and administration offices, were being created at the town site on what was Ward 5, on the third floor.
It comes as a consultation is underway to close the day nurseries at the two hospitals, which have lost £764,000 in four years, with around 50 jobs at risk.
Union chiefs have slammed the move as “obscene”, especially in light of the proposed axing of the nurseries.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:
“The idea that £350,000 is being spent, speaking as an accountant, I can’t see where the savings are going to be made.
“£350,000 could keep the nurseries at Hartlepool and North Tees open for another 18 months.
“You have got a spending priority at a time when the NHS is starved of funds, and it wouldn’t be flashy offices.”
The worker, who did not wish to be named, said the relocation work included the stripping out of oxygen tubes from the ward’s former use.
Work to fit carpets in the offices was carried out on a Bank Holiday, but the trust says this did not incur any extra costs.
The worker said:
“I can’t understand why Alan Foster is putting an office suite and other rooms in while they are talking about closing Hartlepool hospital.
“And he is trying to close the nurseries at the two hospitals, yet he has built these new offices.”
Unison area organiser Mark Edmundson said:
“At a time when the trust is proposing to close two nurseries that provide essential childcare for trust staff and the local community and also make people redundant, the cost of these offices is simply obscene.
“Unison urges the trust to look again at the nursery closure; perhaps fewer new offices for the highest-paid executives at the trust would enable this lifeline for hard-working people to remain open.”
Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North, which includes North Tees, said:
“I am very surprised that the trust would spend such huge amounts of money on offices at a time when they are contemplating cuts to things like nursery provision.
“If they are able to make savings of half a million pounds as a result, that’s money that could be directly invested in the nursery provision, which could be expanded, if there is a will to do that.”
The trust’s associated director of estates and facilities Peter Mitchell said:
“Work is continuing to ensure we make best use of the buildings and space at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.
“The plan is to bring in as many services as possible into the main hospital building to improve security and quality.
“Services which have been occupied in the Hart Building including office space, meeting rooms, wheelchair services, ICT, the sewing room, medical records and domestic services are being moved into a space formerly used as wards in the main hospital building.
“The costs associated with the space utilisation work is £350,000. It is estimated that by moving these services and closing the Hart Building, the trust will save around £550,000 – money to be put back into patient care.”
The trust says the toilet associated with Mr Foster’s office was already there.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 07 Oct 2014
More than £900 for a single shift?
That’s what a Teesside hospital trust paid to one of its agency workers for a single day’s work this year.
The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust paid out £907 to a staffing agency for one person to do one 11.5 hour shift some time after December 2013.
That works out at £78.87 an hour.
The NHS spends hundreds of millions of pounds a year on temporary staff and is increasingly being forced to find cover at the last minute as government cuts stretch staffing resources.
Although the figure for the North Tees trust, which operates the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, seems high, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that hourly rates for agency staff can go up to as much as £540.
This massive figure was paid out by the North Bristol NHS Trust in 2011 to an agency for a temporary worker to cover a 10.25 hour shift – meaning their total bill for one day’s work from one person was £5,554.
Chief executive Alan Foster for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said:
“There are always going to be occasions where we need to provide cover for shifts at short notice and we have measures in place to keep our agency spend down to an absolute minimum.
“We have a mix of our own staff who sign up to work additional shifts through our nurse bank and people from outside the organisation, including other NHS organisations, who have a zero hours contract with us which allows us to call on them when we need to.
“It is good to have this flexibility so we can respond quickly.”
South Tees Hopsitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, failed to provide a response to the Freedom of Information request.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 19 Sept 2014
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has accused the Government of “ignoring” the North East after plans were approved for a new hospital in the Midlands.
The Government has approved plans to build a new £353m acute care hospital near Birmingham using funding from the public and private sectors.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced approval for the Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick during a visit to meet NHS leaders in the Midlands.
But while that hospital is due to open in 2019, the long-running saga over a planned new hospital at Wynyard shows no signs of coming to an end.
Mr Wright said: “I think this reflects the notion that the North East is not a priority for this Government.
“In many respects they don’t consider us as a pressing part of what they do.
“We were the worst hit on cuts in the whole country, and they are taking far too long to make their mind up on Wynyard.
“All this ongoing uncertainty is not helpful to concerns over the provision of healthcare in our area.”
Hartlepool councillors granted fresh planning permission for the Wynyard project back in February after an initial application lodged back in 2009 lapsed following a series of setbacks.
That move put the ball back in the court of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to find the funding to allow work to start.
If it ever gets the go-ahead, the development will include a 568-bed hospital with an extra 66 day beds, 26 wards and 14 operating theatres.
The trust is waiting for news of a £100m contribution from the Government towards the £272m scheme
The planned Wynyard hospital would replace the University Hospitals of Hartlepool and North Tees, in Stockton.
The scheme which has received the green light in the Midlands has striking similarities to the Wynyard plan, with the new facility replacing some existing services at other sites operated by the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, including the accident and emergency departments at City and Sandwell hospitals.
Referring to the project, Mr Osborne said: “This ambitious package will ensure that patients across the West Midlands continue to benefit from access to world-class acute treatment and cutting-edge facilities.
“It is because of the difficult decisions we have taken as a government that we have been able to protect healthcare spending, and announce new facilities like the Midland Metropolitan Hospital.”
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s director of finance Lynne Hodgson said: “The trust’s independent regulator Monitor has completed its affordability assessment of the new hospital.
“Work is ongoing with Department of Health to finalise its analysis of the scheme.
“The Department of Health assessment considers affordability, value for money and the strategic fit for health care services in the Teesside area.
“It is hoped that this assessment will be concluded imminently after which the trust should receive a final decision.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 17 July 2014