At least four acute foundation trusts have forecast wage bill cuts of 10 per cent or more over the coming two years, an HSJ analysis has found.

The news comes as HSJ reveals today that the foundation sector overall is planning to shed at least 30,500 whole time equivalent posts between April 2012 and April 2014, according to sector regulator Monitor.

The figure, released by Monitor under the Freedom of Information Act, is based on the workforce figures foundations submitted to the regulator in support of their projected expenditure on employees between 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Monitor withheld figures broken down to individual foundations, partly on grounds that revealing plans to make significant redundancies could undermine an FT’s ability to compete for health service contracts.

However, an HSJ analysis of FTs’ published three-year plans has revealed those FTs planning the steepest pay bill cuts over the coming two financial years (see FT Pay Bill and Savings table - attached right).

The acute provider projecting the biggest percentage cut between 2012 and 2014 was Cambridge University Hospitals FT, at 14.2 per cent, or £44.9m. It was followed by South Devon Healthcare, at 13.9 per cent, or £18m; Tameside, at 13 per cent or £12.2m; and Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals, at 11.5 per cent or £18.8m.

Basildon and Thurrock personnel director Nigel Taylor, said the foundation had “always been open” about the possibility of future redundancies, but it would not “know the full impact” until it began detailed discussions with its commissioners about next year’s contracts.  “But there will be less money, the plan is that there will be less activity and we will need to make savings,” he said. “We will continue to do everything we can to minimise the impact for staff.”

A CUHFT spokesman said its pay bill plans “should not be interpreted as indicating an actual plan to reduce pay on this scale”.

When the foundation prepared its annual plan seven months ago it applied a “theoretical percentage reduction to all costs, including the pay bill, reflecting the fact that we were looking at reducing whole time equivalents,” he explained.

Now that CUHFT was “effectively tackling” its savings programme it had shifted “much of that reduction away from the pay bill and into other expenses”.

Tameside, meanwhile, said its planned pay bill reduction for the coming years would “not come solely from a reduction in posts” and it would continue to reduce spending on agency staff. The foundation’s staffing costs were set to fall by around 4 per cent this year, through the establishment of an internal nurse bank, and a “successful international recruitment drive for middle grade doctors”, but there might also be between five and 10 compulsory redundancies.

A fifth trust, York Teaching Hospital, predicted a pay bill cut of 12.9 per cent or £24.1m. York chief executive Patrick Crowley said £14.37m of its pay reduction related to its temporary hosting of Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale community services in 2011-12. At the time of submitting its plan to Monitor the trust’s long-term acquisition of the services had not been confirmed and Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare Trust staff had therefore been left out of its pay figures for 2012-13. He said the true pay bill reduction figure was 2.9 per cent.

Despite 2011-12 being the first in of the NHS’s four-year £20bn savings drive, the foundation trust sector workforce is set to rise this year, due primarily to its takeover of a large number of primary care trust provider arms, under the Transforming Community Services programme.

The sector forecasts it will employ 508,723 whole time equivalents at the end of 2011-12, up from 463,933 last year. However, the workforce establishment is forecast to fall steeply after that – in the acute sector dropping 4.2 per cent in 2012-13.

By the end of 2013-14 the acute sector forecasts it will have less posts than it did last year – more than wiping out the staff gain from Transforming Community Services. Foundation Trust Network director Sue Slipman said that when its members took on community services they found what they believed were “overheads that couldn’t be justified” across their organisations as a whole.

“Part of that transformation is getting the overheads down and therefore rationalising services in such a way that you produce both [the original services provided by a foundation and those they have taken on] in a more cost effective way,” she added.

The workforce projections obtained by HSJ cover the entire FT sector, with the exception of ambulance FTs, three acute FTs authorised since April 1, and Mid Staffordshire, which delayed its submission in order to produce plans for a long term “clinically and financially viable solution” to the foundation’s problems.

The most recent version of that plan proposed a reduction in 541 posts – a fifth of its staff – over the next four years.

Exclusive: foundation trusts plan deepest workforce cuts in a generation