£10m spent on NHS job losses

MORE than £10 million was spent last year giving Scottish NHS workers voluntary redundancy deals as part of plans to cut the workforce in healthcare. Labour yesterday published Freedom of Information documents which showed how the voluntary redundancy costs went up from £3.5m in 2009-10 to £10m in 2010-11, as health boards sought to cut spending on pay in advance of major spending slowdowns.

The increase was largely brought about due to a major severance scheme in NHS Lanarkshire which persuaded 130 staff to leave during the year.

Labour claimed the moves would increase the pressure on existing doctors, nurses and administrators left behind, which “must impact on patient care”. But the SNP government insisted the moves were part of a planned reduction in the workforce, required as a result of the spending crunch which has affected the NHS even though ministers have promised not to cut its cash. The latest overall figures for March show the number of staff employed has declined by 1.2 per cent compared with six months earlier, the equivalent to 1,855 full-time people leaving. Nursing staff numbers have fallen at the same rate over the same period, although the number of consultants has risen.

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The figures on voluntary redundancy could be even higher as they do not include NHS Lothian or NHS Greater Glasgow. The voluntary redundancy scheme at NHS Lanarkshire cost £6.2m alone.

NHS Grampian gave voluntary redundancy to 31 members of staff at a cost of £2.3m, while NHS Ayrshire and Arran offered deals to 18 people. The cost was not disclosed.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said last night: “There are many nurses included in this total. All this does is increase the pressure on staff who are still in post and eventually that must impact on patient care.”

She added: “Nicola Sturgeon, the Cabinet secretary for health, has already said in replies to questions from me on this issue that she will not give boards extra financial resources to pay for staff cuts. Inevitably that means the money will have to come from other areas of spending and that could impact on front line services.”

But SNP MSP Jim Eadie, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s health committee, said: “Of course we have to face enormous budget pressures but these have been imposed by Westminster and started when Labour were in power. The SNP is committed to protecting Scotland’s health budget for the whole of this parliament and has delivered record low waiting times.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said most of the redundancies in NHS Lanarkshire were administrative staff and would not impact on patient care. He said: “Over the last 12 months we have seen NHS boards deliver a planned reduction in the NHS workforce and the number of acute beds, while at the same time increasing activity and improving quality. We now have the best waiting times performance and the lowest levels of healthcare associated infection on record.”