Jobs are set to be axed at a South Tyneside hospital as part of as restructuring process.
A 30 day consultation has began at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust to shed the jobs - just weeks after it announced a new alliance with City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
The Gazette understands up to 27 roles are affected by the shake-up and the losses will be coming from bands 7 to 8c - the top section of NHS earners.
Trust bosses would not confirm that figure and claim the redundancies are not linked to the new partnership with Sunderland and that compulsory redundancies are a last resort.
However, campaigners and nursing unions aren’t convinced and need more reassurance.
There are already fears the hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, is to be downgraded, with Sunderland Royal dealing with more acute services, when the newly created The South of Tyne Healthcare Group is in full swing
This is no way linked to our developing alliance.Ian Frame
Shirley Ford, of the South Tyneside Green Party, has previously spoken out over concerns that South Shields will be left with a ‘cottage hospital’.
The party organised a seven-mile protest walk from South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields to Sunderland Royal, last Sunday, to highlight the distance the borough’s patients will have to travel for many services.
Ms Ford said: “This news is extremely concerning and it goes to show we were right to start campaigning when we did.
“If such senior posts are being shed at our hospital, what are we going to be left with?
“Trust bosses are saying that nothing would be done without public consultation - well it seems the ball has already started to roll.
“We will not stop campaigning on this, we will fight to save our hospital.”
Representatives for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) say they are seeking more clarification from health bosses before they can support the new structure.
There’s also concerns that band 8a cuts may involve matrons. The Gazette understands approximately 14 roles at this level are affected.
An RCN spokesman for the Northern region said: “While we welcome the assurances from the trust’s executive director that frontline clinicians will not be affected by any changes in this extensive restructuring, there are issues we need further clarification on before we can sign up to the new structure.
“For example, there are a number of senior nursing staff who undertake both management and clinical roles, and we can’t afford to lose this experience.
“The trust is in a very difficult financial position and we will work with them to ensure that patient safety and quality of clinical outcomes is prioritised.
“The devil is in the detail, and if some of the band 8a posts that are being abolished are effectively matrons, that would be a concern. In short, we need to be sure that the trust is not classifying these posts as wholly managerial rather than as part clinical.”
“He added: “We also want to be clear as to why some nursing posts are reporting to non-clinical managers in the new structure, roles that in the past were undertaken by matrons.”
Ian Frame, South Tyneside’s executive director for personnel and development, said: “Like many NHS Trusts, we are facing considerable financial pressure. We are continually looking for efficiencies and savings that will not impact in any way on our clinical services and, in line with this, we are currently planning some management restructuring. “This week, we began a 30-day consultation on the proposed new structures, which affect senior managers.
“If it is identified that jobs need to go, the Trust would only consider compulsory redundancy as a last resort. Patient safety is our number one priority and frontline clinicians will not be affected by any changes.
“The restructuring is a purely internal matter for the Trust and is in no way linked to our developing alliance with City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.”