Tagged: Royal College of Nursing

‘Massive spike’ in long A&E waits highlights crisis facing North-East NHS

A nursing union has highlighted the “crisis” facing the North-East NHS by publishing details of what it calls a “massive spike” in long accident and emergency waits in the last four years.

The figures from the Royal College of Nursing contrast the small numbers of long A&E waits in the week ending May 8 in 2011 with the same week this year.

They show that at six out of eight North-East accident and emergency units the number of patients who had to wait between four and 12 hours from the decision to admit to actual admissions had rocketed between 2011 and 2015.

In 2011 only 15 patients had to wait between four and 12 hours until they were admitted – but by 2015 this figure had risen to 141.

The largest rise was seen at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where the number facing long waits for admission to A&E rose from eight in 2011 to 47 this year.

The second highest figure was recorded at the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust where the number facing long waits to be admitted rose from zero to 37.

At the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust the number facing long waits jumped from six in 2011 to 14 in the corresponding week this year.

 Glenn Turp, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, said:
“This is nothing short of a crisis in A&E. If anybody tries to tell you that the NHS is not feeling the strain, then frankly they are living in cloud cuckoo land.”

Mr Turp added: “What this basically tells you is that, without significant extra funding from central government, our beloved NHS simply will not be able to cope in the future.”

A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust said:

“Pressure on A&E departments has increased significantly since 2011 as reflected in these figures.

“We have taken a number of steps to improve the patient’s experience in our A&E departments, and to reduce waiting times.

“There is more to be done, which is why we have announced plans to extend the A&E departments at Darlington Memorial and University Hospital of North Durham.”

Source –  Northern Echo, 12 May 2015

Unions slam ‘disgusting’ pay rises for South Tyneside health bosses

Pay hikes for senior hospital bosses in South Tyneside have been branded “shocking and disgusting” by health union leaders.

Salaries for six executives at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust rose by at least £5,000 in the space of a year – between 2012/13 and last year, a shared cash boost of £50,000.

Trevor Johnston, who is head of health for the North East region for health union Unison, called for hospital bosses to limit their pay rises to the same one per cent increase being received by frontline NHS staff this year.

The trust says management pay increases were introduced because of a large increase in workload when community services in Gateshead and Sunderland became part of its remit.

 Trust chief executive Lorraine Lambert saw her salary increase by 19 per cent – from between £160,000 and £165,000 to £185,000 to £190,000.

Mike Robson, executive director of finance and corporate governance, saw his salary swell from between £115,000 and £120,000 to £120,000 to £125,000

Chief operating officer Helen Ray left her post in March last year but saw her final salary rise from between £105,000 to £110,000 to £115,000.

Fellow senior executives Steve Jamieson and Elaine Criddle enjoyed £5,000 pay boosts over the same period.

Trevor Johnston said:

“It is absolutely shocking and disgusting. These people have their own remuneration committee and award themselves big pay rises when frontline staff get very little.

“What conscience do they have when frontline staff got a one per cent rise for the coming year? Executives should be taking a one per cent rise as well.

“It is the frontline staff that are delivering services to patients.”

Health workers had planned to strike in January after the Government initially rejected a one per cent pay rise proposal by the NHS pay review body for England but the protest was called off to allow fresh negotiations to take place.

Glenn Turp, northern regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, says pay increases for health staff such as nurses and midwives is failing to keep up with those given to hospital management.

Mr Turp said:

“Our research showed that the amount spent on executive directors had increased by an average of six per cent, compared to a 1.6 per cent rise in earnings for nurses, midwives and health visitors.

“Nurses are continuing to feel the effects of austerity and the impact of the Government’s decision not to award them a pay increase for the last five years. Now is the time for more fairness and better pay for all NHS staff.”

Ian Frame, the trusts’s executive director of personnel and development, said:

“In July 2011, our Trust incorporated the community services from Sunderland and Gateshead into our organisation and, in doing so, doubled the size of the workforce, the operational turnover and the complexity of services provided.

“During 2012 we commissioned an external independent remuneration company, to compare the salary scales of managers who have Trust-wide responsibilities, with managers in other Trusts of comparable size and complexity. The outcome was that the existing salary scales were significantly less than our comparators.

“A revised salary scale was approved by the Trust`s Remuneration Committee (comprising Non-Executive Directors only), which accounts for the increases published in the Annual Reports, though the committee opted to phase the increases over a four year period, in order to reduce the immediatel financial impact.

“Executive director annual inflationary salary increases are directly linked to the national NHS pay awards, so they receive exactly the same inflationary increase as all other staff. Had the organisation not doubled in size and complexity, then the published increases would not have happened.

“Irrespective of the increases, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust chief executive and executive directors’ salaries are amongst the lowest in the North East.”

Outgoing Hospital boss Lorraine Lambert enjoyed a £25,000 pay boost in just one year – as “compensation” for withdrawing from an NHS pension scheme.

South Tyneside Hospital Foundation Trust says she had not been given a basic salary increase or bonus payment, but had received a lump sum payment after withdrawing from the NHS pension scheme.

A trust spokeswoman confirmed:

“As stated in our annual report, it was agreed that she should receive a compensatory sum equivalent to the employers’ pension contributions no longer payable due to her withdrawal from the pension scheme.

“We can confirm that this compensatory sum, which is taxable, is the sole reason for the total remuneration shifting into the higher banding and there was no additional cost to the trust.”

Mrs Lambert will retire from her role as chief executive of the trust in September.

Mrs Lambert has spent 20 years at South Tyneside District Hospital, in South Shields, with the last 18 in her current position.

Source – Shields Gazette, 13 Mar 2015

Nurses hit by pay cuts of up to 28%

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

Survey shows 42% of student nurses in the North East are considering working abroad


Nurses’ leaders say a Government attack on pay will cause “brain drain” from the NHS as 42% of student nurses in the region are consider working abroad.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the ongoing attack on NHS pay is making most student nurses feel undervalued before they have even qualified, and risks forcing newly qualified nurses to look for fairer pay outside the NHS.

A survey of the RCN’s student members has found that the recent decision to deny NHS staff a pay increase of 1% has left the country’s future nurses feeling anxious about their finances.

Peta Clark, operational manager for the RCN Northern Region said:

“The results of the RCN’s survey – which is part of a wider national survey carried out between July and September this year, shows that nursing students are feeling disheartened and unvalued by the current Government’s outrageous and unfair policy on NHS pay.

“NHS Trusts across the region are struggling to recruit and retain nursing staff. And yet, because of the Government’s refusal to pay a cost of living increase for nurses and health care assistants, we now have the very real possibility of seeing many of our current student nurses leaving the country to work abroad, where pay, terms and conditions are superior.

“Forty two percent of the current crop of nursing students across the North East and Cumbria told us that they are actively considering pursuing a career in nursing abroad, because the current state of nursing pay is so woeful.”

Countries such as Canada and Australia are currently actively recruiting nurses from the UK, because they know that the quality and skills that NHS nurses have are second to none.

Figures obtained by the RCN shows that 82% of student nurses polled across the North East and Cumbria are angry about the Government’s decision on nurses pay and 75% said the Government’s decision on pay has made them feel undervalued and unappreciated.

On Monday frontline health workers in the North East will strike in support of their claim for fair pay. Nurses, health care assistants, paramedics, porters and medical records staff across the country will take part in industrial action to show their anger at the Government’s failure to honour a 1% pay rise.

After three years of pay freezes and pay restraint, Chancellor George Osborne had said a 1% pay rise across the board was “affordable” from April this year. However, the Government then controversially reneged on this promise.

While some nurses and health care assistants still get their incremental pay increase, which rewards experience and skills learnt after a length of service, many are not be entitled to the rise. The Government has insisted it cannot afford a general pay increase without putting frontline jobs at risk.

A Department of Health spokesperson said:

“NHS staff are our greatest asset and we know they are working extremely hard. This is why despite tough financial times, we’ve protected the NHS budget and now have 13,500 more clinical staff than in 2010.

“We want to protect these increases and cannot afford incremental pay increases – which disproportionately reward the highest earners – on top of a general pay rise without risking frontline NHS jobs. We remain keen to meet with the unions to discuss how we can work together to make the NHS pay system fairer and more affordable.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle –  08 Oct 2014

Real terms cut in public health budgets announced

Spending on public health in the region will be cut next year, it was announced yesterday (Tuesday, September 9) – despite Government promises to protect the NHS.

The amounts given to local councils – for services such as smoking cessation classes, obesity clinics, school nurses and drug and alcohol treatments – will be frozen.

The Department of Health admitted that meant a cut in real terms, after inflation, but said it was necessary because “the health budget is under a lot of pressure”.

Furthermore, it comes after cash-starved town halls have already been accused of raiding their public health budgets as they wrestle with huge cuts to their overall funds.

The cut was revealed in a statement to MPs, which announced that public health funding in 2015-16 would “remain the same as last year, at £2.79bn”.

It means County Durham will continue to receive £45.8m from next April. Other frozen allocations include Darlington (£7.8m), Middlesbrough (£16.4m) Stockton (£13.1m) and North Yorkshire (£19.7m).

In response to The Northern Echo, a department of health spokeswoman acknowledged:

This is a flat cash settlement – so it’s a real terms decrease.

 “The health budget is under a lot of pressure, so we are not able to increase it, but at least budgets are remaining stable and we are not taking money away.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, linked the decision to the recent closures of medical centres at Skelton and Park End – with Hemlington also under threat.

He said:

“It is quite clear that our local areas NHS is being cut for purely financial reasons, with no attention to clinical need.”

Budgets for public health were transferred from the NHS to local authorities last year, as part of the Coalition’s radical overhaul of the health service.

Ministers argued councils were better equipped to tackle problems such as obesity, smoking and pollution and – ironically – that the funds had often been “raided” by the NHS.

The cut comes amid growing pressure to increase spending on the stubborn causes of ill-health, to cut the long-term cost to the health service.

 Yet both the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Journal have warned that services are being rundown – despite the money being, in theory, ring-fenced.

Cash has been diverted to areas including trading standards, citizens’ advice bureaux, domestic abuse services, housing, parks and leisure centres, they found.

But Jane Ellison, the public health minister, said:

“We want to see local areas continue their excellent work to help people lead healthier lives.

“The money has again been ring-fenced, so the focus will remain firmly on improving the health of local communities. This will be further boosted by an extra £5m to target priority areas.”

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Sept 2014

North East health bosses’ ‘disgraceful, demoralising’ pay rises condemned

Health bosses at a North East health trust have been awarded huge pay rises despite frontline nurses struggling to get an across the board 1% increase.

Senior members of staff at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which runs mental health services in the region, have seen their wages hike by up to 9.5% in the last two years.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is currently undergoing significant change with its Transforming Services Programme which could see as many as 169 posts reduced under radical plans to change the way that care is delivered to vulnerable patients.

Former chief executive of the trust Gillian Fairfield, who left her post at the end of March this year, saw her salary rise the most from £182,700 in 2012/13 to £200,000 in 2013/14, a boost of £17,300.

Meanwhile, Lisa Quinn, executive director of performance and assurance, and Elizabeth Latham, former director of workforce and organisational development, had pay rises of 5.5%, with both their wages jumping from £100,000 to £105,500.

Nurses’ leaders and MPs have reacted with anger as the wage boosts come at a time when not all frontline NHS staff are being given a 1% rise. While some nurses and health care assistants will still get their incremental pay increase, which rewards experience and skills learnt after a length of service, many will not be entitled to the rise.

The Government has insisted it cannot afford a general pay increase without putting frontline jobs at risk.

Glenn Turp, Royal College of Nursing Northern Regional Director said: “We are very concerned to learn that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust awarded such a significant pay rise to Gillian Fairfield. When it comes to pay, it seems we are seeing one rule for NHS chief executives, and another for frontline nursing staff.

“Less than half of nursing staff at the top of their pay increment will get a paltry 1% pay rise this year, following three years of pay restraint. The rest will simply get what they are contractually entitled to, if they can demonstrate they have developed their skills in the previous year.

“And we know that, once inflation is factored in, NHS salaries have in fact been cut between 8% and 12% in real terms, between the period 2010 and 2014. A band three health care assistant working on the frontline earns £16,200 a year; less than this chief executive was awarded as a pay rise in one year. It’s disgraceful and demoralising for frontline workers.”

Health chiefs have insisted that since Northumberland, Tyne and Wear became a foundation trust in December 2009, executive directors had more responsibility and this was reflected in their salaries.

Chairman of the trust, Hugh Morgan Williams, said: “When a NHS trust gains foundation trust status it acquires a significant amount of managerial and financial freedom and a degree of independence from the Department of Health.

“Individual executive directors of the organisation therefore gain more responsibility, which you would expect to be reflected in their remuneration, amongst other things, due to the complexities of responsibilities directors have to undertake.

“Northumberland, Tyne and Wear became a foundation trust on December 1, 2009, and it had been agreed to commission an external review on authorisation as a foundation trust. This review was deferred on several occasions and took place during 2013/14. There was a commitment to back date any increases to the date of achieving Foundation Trust status and this commitment has now been honoured.”

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said pay restraint in the NHS should be the same for everyone. He added: “If exceptions are to be allowed, we should start with those who are the least well-paid. There is no excuse for breaching the public sector pay policy just for those who are already amongst the highest paid.”

Dr Fairfield now works at Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and was unavailable for comment.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust’s executive directors pay

Gillian Fairfield, former chief executive

Salary 2012/13: £182,700

Salary 2013/14: £200,000

% change: 9.5

James Duncan, executive director of finance and deputy chief executive

Salary 2012/13: £125,000

Salary 2013/14: £126,250

% change: 1%

Gary O’Hare, executive director of nursing and operations

Salary 2012/13: £107,124

Salary 2013/14: £109,800

% change: 2.5

Elizabeth Latham, former director of workforce and organisational development

Salary 2012/13: £100,000

Salary 2013/14: £105,500

% change: 5.5

Lisa Quinn, executive director of performance and assurance

Salary 2012/13: £100,000

Salary 2013/14: £105,500

% change: 5.5

Lisa Crichton-Jones, acting director of workforce and organisational development

Salary 2012/13: n/a

Salary 2013/14: £105,500

% change: n/a

 

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 17 July 2014

Nurses’ leaders have branded North East health bosses’ pay rises a “disgrace”

Health trusts’ chief salaries have increased by up to 13% in the North East, new figures have revealed.

Freedom of Information requests to NHS trusts have shown that the amount paid to executive directors over the last two years has increased by anything up to £25,000 compared to just a 1.6% rise in earnings for nurses, midwives or health visitors.

Nurses’ leaders in the region have hit out at the pay rises, which come a time when not all frontline NHS staff are being given a 1% hike in wages.

The findings of the Royal College of Nursing’s report – All in it together? The Executive pay bill in England’s NHS – shows that the chief executive of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, Ian Renwick, saw his wages rise by up to 13% from £185,000-£190,000 in 2011/12 to £205,000-£210,000 in 2012/13.

Meanwhile, figures for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Jim Mackey, suggests that his salary rose by 9% from £225,000–£230,000 in 2011/12 to £240,000–£245,000 in 2012/13. However, the health trust has insisted that the findings are incorrect and there has been no pay increase as the rise relates to pension contributions.

Glenn Turp, Northern regional director of RCN said: “When it comes to pay, we are seeing one rule for NHS chief executives, and another for frontline nursing staff. The staggering inequity of the way NHS staff are being treated is completely unacceptable. So much for us all being in this together.

“A band three health care assistant earns between £16,200 and £19,200. But apparently, unlike NHS chief executives, the Government doesn’t think they are worth a pay rise. It’s disgraceful.”

The FOI figures come at a time when the Government has failed to honour a 1% pay rise to all frontline NHS staff this year.

Susan Johnson, 47, of Killingworth, a senior sister in critical care at North Tyneside General Hospital said: “It is a huge kick in the teeth. Day-to-day most staff are being asked to do a little bit more and we are going that one step further to continuously develop our skills. Yet chief executives are getting significant pay rises. It is demoralising for frontline staff.”

A spokesperson for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “The salaries of our chief executive and of all our executive directors are decided by an independent nominations and remuneration committee and this is to ensure they are in line with publicly available salary benchmarking information.

“As one of the country’s top performing NHS Foundation Trusts, it is important that those with ultimate accountability are remunerated appropriately so that we can retain the very best health care leaders in the North East NHS.”

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said that, along with the rest of its staff, no director has had an increase in pay since a pay freeze was implemented in 2011/12.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts and clinical commissioning groups set pay for their very senior managers.

“We have an available budget of nearly £1bn for pay increases. We have offered to look at any proposal the unions make on how to use this money. However they have not put forward any proposals to help the lowest paid. Our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position.

“The RCN’s figures should be used with caution – they have included exit packages for executive directors but not nurses. In fact, the latest independent evidence shows that for the third year running, there was no increase in median executive board pay.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  17 June 2014

Health care staff protest outside Newcastle hospital over low pay for NHS employees

Frontline nurses and health care assistants gathered in the region this morning to protest against pay conditions.

Scores of NHS staff joined prominent MP Nick Brown outside Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital to show their anger at the Government’s failure to honour a 1% pay rise this year.

After three years of pay freezes and pay restraint, Chancellor George Osborne had said a 1% pay rise across the board was “affordable” from April this year. However, the Government then controversially reneged on this promise.

While some nurses and health care assistants will still get their incremental pay increase, which rewards experience and skills learnt after a length of service, many will not be entitled to the rise.

The Government has insisted it cannot afford a general pay increase without putting frontline jobs at risk.

Glenn Turp, Royal College of Nursing Northern Region regional director, said: “Nurses are working very hard and the number of people at our protest shows how angry our members are.

“It is baffling that the Chancellor said the Government could afford a 1% pay rise across the board and then that was reneged on. It makes no sense.

“What the NHS cannot afford to do is continue a policy of treating hard working and loyal staff with contempt, at a time when morale is at an all time low and trusts around the country struggle to retain and recruit enough nurses to maintain safe staffing levels.

“We see this as being a year long campaign leading up to the general election.”

Nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, paramedics, hospital cleaners and other NHS staff took part in demonstrations throughout the country.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said: “The Government’s continuing public sector pay restraint is not fair and not sustainable. It is particularly unfair on nurses and other low paid workers in the NHS.

“I completely support the Royal College of Nursing, hospital staff look after us in our time of need and we must stand up for them. It is important that the public understands just how shabby the Government is in treating key health service workers.”

Staff nurse Grace Onuoha, 53, of Walker, Newcastle, had just finished a night shift for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust when she attended the protest.

The mum-of-three said: “It is very disappointing that there is not an across the board pay rise as we are working hard and doing a lot yet receiving nothing in return. It feels like we have been given a slap in the face by the Government.

“Morale is extremely low among staff as we are doing more and getting less. My pay is exactly the same as it was in 2009 despite the rise in the cost of living.”

The TUC, representing 14 health unions, said its research showed that health staff in England were “donating” £1.5bn worth of unpaid overtime every year.

Unions said that by 2015/16 NHS staff would have had their pay capped for six years. Pay was frozen in 2011 and 2012, and limited to 1% last year.

Susan Johnson, 47, of Killingworth, a senior sister in critical care at North Tyneside General Hospital, said: “It is frustrating because we work so hard and my concern is that we will put off future generations from joining the profession as nursing staff struggle with unsociable hours and are not very financially rewarded.”

The Department of Health said it was saddened by the health unions’ reaction to reject the pay offer. A spokesperson said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset.

“That’s why at a time of severe funding restraint we have been clear that they should receive at least 1% additional pay this year and next.

“We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases of up to 6% without risking frontline jobs and safe staffing levels.

“We are disappointed that the unions rejected our offer to discuss any alternative proposals on pay, within an available budget of nearly £1bn.

“However, our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  05 June 2014

Fears for mental health patients as 150 jobs go at North East health trust

Fears have been expressed for some of the region’s most vulnerable patients after it emerged more than 150 frontline NHS posts will be cut.

As many as 169 posts at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust will be lost under radical plans to change the way that care is delivered to mental health patients.

Nurses are set to be the worst hit, though a total of 867 employees will be affected as staff may be required to change their place of work or undergo different shift patterns.

Plans put forward for consultation will see wards close, services relocated and the development of new units as the trust aims to reduce costs by 20% over a five-year period.

Health chiefs have insisted that the changes will significantly improve patient services, but staff and unions have raised fears over employees’ safety and future staffing levels.

Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Trust management have told us that although they are endeavouring to redeploy all of the staff who are affected by the restructuring, they can not give guarantees that all staff will be redeployed, and as a consequence they have issued ‘advance notice of redundancy forms’ affecting around 170 staff.

“The fact remains that local NHS employers are in the invidious position of having to make huge cost savings that are not deliverable without having a negative impact on patient care, frontline staffing and inpatient activity.”

Thirteen new schemes will be introduced across the region covering all aspects of mental health, including older people’s services, psychiatric intensive care and male high dependency.

Community services will be enhanced so that fewer people will require hospital admission.

It is believed that more than 90 beds will be reduced and new ways of accessing treatment introduced for those with psychosis, non-psychosis, cognitive disorders and learning disability.

A mental health nurse, who has asked not to be named, said: “A number of challenging patients who used to be managed within the hospital setting are now going to have to be cared for in the community.

“Without significant additional investment in community services and staff, this will put significant pressure on both the patients themselves, and their families who will be increasingly relied upon to provide support when NHS staff are not available.

“For those patients who do not have a supportive family network, this may put both their health and safety at risk.

“The public should be concerned about the scale and the nature of this restructuring, because it looks as if community care is being delivered on the cheap. That has implications for everyone.”

The trust is currently working with staff on the proposals and a number of public consultation events have taken place. It is expected that the changes will come into force within the next two to three years.

A spokesperson for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “Service users, carers, the voluntary sector and our commissioners and local authorities have been involved for many months in developing our plans for mental health services across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.

“The vast majority of our services are provided in the community with only 3% of our patients ever needing to go to hospital, yet we spend more than 50% of our resources for services on our inpatient beds.

“Our aim is to improve quality in both our inpatient and community services whilst at the same time meeting the cost savings required of us.

“In terms of our inpatient beds, the trust currently has over 650 beds and as an example, in the last three weeks we have used in the order of 470 beds each day.”

Source – Newcastle Journal  23 April 2014

Fears raised over planned changes to North East mental health services

Scores of beds are set to be cut in a major overhaul of mental health services in the North East.

Radical changes will see the merger of two psychiatric intensive care units, a reduction of in-patient beds and the axing of 22 frontline nursing posts.

Fears have been raised over how the changes could affect some of the most vulnerable patients in the region.

But health officials at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust insisted their Transforming Services Programme will improve quality of care for patients, while delivering efficient cost savings.

Patients and staff in the South of Tyne area are being affected by the proposals, and the trust says it has future plans to look at the way services are delivered North of Tyne.

Under the trust’s plans, two psychiatric intensive care units will merge into one. The services at Greentrees Ward at St Nicholas Hospital in Newcastle and the Dene at Cherry Knowle Hospital in Sunderland both have 14 beds.

It is proposed to merge those wards into a single 14-bed facility at a new hospital at Hopewood Park, Sunderland, which is due to open later this year.

Meanwhile, a overhaul of in-patient care will see more services delivered in the community, resulting in the reduction of about 90 beds across the trust’s South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland sites.

Staff are currently going through a consultation process as it is proposed to reduce the number of nursing posts, across all staff banding levels, from 64 to 42.

Last night, union officials and MPs raised concerns that the move will hit those in need of mental health care.

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said: “Mental health services should be protected. We are in the situation where mental health issues are getting more awareness and it’s not good to hear that services are being affected in the region.

“It is ludicrous if these changes are being made to save money, and patients will understandably be concerned at what the proposals mean for them. Mental health services are very much needed.”

Greg Canning, Royal College of Nursing Officer said: “This is one of a large number of areas where the trust is currently consulting on reducing the number of posts.

“To cut the number of nursing posts in psychiatric intensive care from 64 to 42 is a huge reduction, and we want to see evidence that this will mean that the service remains viable.

“Patient and staff safety must come first. I’m meeting with Gary O’Hare, the director of nursing at the trust, and I will be raising the matter with him as a matter of urgency.”

It is expected that the changes will come into force within the next two to three years.

A spokesman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “For some time now we have been working with staff, service users, carers and partner organisations to look at ways in which we can redesign our service around the needs of the people we look after. This has included a formal public consultation in South Tyneside which has now come to a close.

“We are currently consulting with our staff on a number of changes to the way we provide services both inside and outside hospitals.

“The aim of these changes is to ensure that we look after people in the right environment for them, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions. We are also working closely with our trade unions to ensure that no one loses their job through this process.”

As many as one in four people suffer from mental health problems at some point in their lives.

Earlier this year, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the Government’s mental health action plan, setting out priorities for change in mental health care and support.

He said patients will have a choice of where to be treated and a right to minimum waiting times.

Source – Newcastle Journal   11 April 2014