Doctors protest at 1,000 NHS jobs left unfilled at east London hospitals

Dr Anna Livingstone

Dr Anna Livingstone - Credit: Archant

Hospitals across east London are facing a £24 million deficit for the first quarter of the current financial year, it has emerged.

The shock debt has been revealed as doctors plan to hold a mass protest next Tuesday over 1,000 hospital staff vacancies they claim are being left unfilled.

Barts NHS Health Trust which runs the Royal London, the Mile End, London Chest, Newham University and Whipps Cross hospitals, is making cuts of £77.5m for the 2013-14 book-balancing period.

The cuts have led to doctors and staff—joined by GPs—holding the rally outside the Royal London in Whitechapel.

They are protesting at soaring costs of the new hospital complex they claim is causing the debts to spread across east London, after last year’s the health trust expansion from Tower Hamlets and the City into Newham and Waltham Forest.

“The private funding means all the hospitals are now in debt,” said Newham campaign coordinator Dr Ron Singer.

“The deal at £129m a year—and rising—is bleeding our NHS dry. Services will disappear or be reduced.”

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Newham’s ‘Save Our NHS’ campaign is holding a public meeting later this month over effects of the cuts on health services. East Ham MP Steven Timms and London Health Emergency’s Dr John Lister are speaking at the 7.30pm meeting at East Ham Town Hall on October 30.

Barts Trust denies that posts are being left vacant, but instead are being filled by temporary agency workers at £70m a year, most of whom it hopes to replace with permanent staff.

The trust sees the private funding deal as an effective way of paying for revamping hospital services over 42 years.

But critics say that makes it 10 times more expensive because of interest payments.

Dr Anna Livingstone, from the Gill Street Clinic in Limehouse, said: “The £1bn cost of the new hospital is not affordable—the trust is making cuts to pay for it by downgrading staff to reduce wages and leaving 1,000 vacancies, while waiting lists for patients are growing.”

The trust is saving £77.5m—but insists there are no plans to cut services.

The private funding deal for the Royal London also included parts of St Bartholomew’s and Newham hospitals to replace facilities “no longer fit for 21st century healthcare,” it points out.

A spokesman said: “The private funding is not to blame for our cost savings requirement.”

The £24.4m deficit results from high agency costs, pressure on A&Es and reduced income from medical treatment.