The Bishop of Worcester has described as a 'piece of destruction' proposals by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals trust to make six chaplains redundant as part of plans to tackle an underlying £30m deficit.

The Bishop of Worcester has described as a 'piece of destruction' proposals by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals trust to make six chaplains redundant as part of plans to tackle an underlying£30m deficit.

Trust chief executive John Rostill admitted that some of the actions 'will cause distress', but said the need to maintain frontline clinical services was 'paramount'.

Mr Rostill has told two Anglican chaplains, three Roman Catholics and another from the Free Church that they are to lose their posts as part of a major recovery plan to achieve financial balance.

Some 40 staff across a range of corporate directorates have already been told that their jobs are 'at risk', a further 360 vacancies have been frozen and 18 staff have taken voluntary redundancy. The trust will be left with one chaplain covering its three sites.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Right Reverend Dr Peter Selbie, voiced his concerns on BBC R4's early morning religious programme, Sunday.

In a statement, Dr Selbie said: 'At a time when the trust is causing huge disruption to the lives of staff and patients, the chaplains' role in staff support makes a difference, hidden but real, to the whole life of our hospitals.'

Dr Selbie said he laid the blame for the 'mountain of debt' the trust faces on the private finance initiative and NHS financial managers. 'The hospital, and that means your health and the health of the county, is in the hands of the accountants. Individually they may be as caring as any of us, but in the task they have undertaken they leave their humanity at the door as they undertake the &Quot;big project&Quot;.'

Mr Rostill said he regretted the fact that the chaplains were at risk, but said that as part of the trust's recovery plan it needed to save£8m and to improve general efficiency by£7m by next March.

The proposal to reduce the number of chaplains from seven to one equalled the cost of four nurses, Mr Rostill added.

'We will continue our discussions with religious leaders to seek to minimise the impact of this decision on patients and staff and work with them to provide alternative support and care.'