The threat hanging over 20,000 NHS posts has amounted to fewer than 800 redundancies so far, NHS Employers has claimed.
In a briefing sent to MPs last week ahead of an opposition debate in the House of Commons on the NHS workforce, NHS Employers said claims that 20,000 posts are 'at risk' may turn out to be fairly accurate. The figure has been cited by the Conservatives and the Royal College of Nursing. But most of this will not be by redundancies. 'Aside from changes as part of the Commissioning a Patient-led NHSprocess, most trusts are not planning to make people redundant,' it said.
Eighteen trusts surveyed by NHS Employers had identified 7,900 potential redundancies, but notified the Department for Trade and Industry of only 3,999 jobs at risk.
Only 766 of these have evolved into voluntary or compulsory redundancies, 540 of them in two organisations. The other cuts come from freezing vacancies.
The briefing says: 'Where trusts have notified the DTI, the press or the local public of the intention to make redundancies, the actual number has turned out to be much smaller than the original figure.'
During the six-hour debate in the Commons last week, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said decisions which were 'being made for short-term financial expediency have a direct impact on staff.'
But health secretary Patricia Hewitt said the NHS employed 300,000 more people than in 1997, and that the scale of redundancies was far lower than predicted.
Mid Yorkshire trust had notified the government of 400 at-risk jobs, but had made only six staff compulsorily redundant. She said: 'We all wish there had been none at all, but that is very different from the headlines.'
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals trust identified 760 jobs at risk, she said. It notified the DTI of 250 but had given 19 redundancy notices.
Mid Yorkshire trust chief executive John Parkes said the trust was working hard to minimise redundancies as it shed 450 jobs over two years.
He said: 'We thought we would have to place just over 200 staff at risk of redundancy, but by working closely with our trade union colleagues and through staff willing to be flexible we have been able to dramatically reduce that figure.'
So far, he said, 10 people had accepted voluntary redundancy and four people had been made compulsorily redundant.
Worcestershire's spokesperson told HSJthat seven of the 19 people affected had been found new posts and only 11 compulsory redundancy notices had been issued. These were all administrative and clerical posts. With the trust still needing to shed 250 jobs, a second round of job cuts is now underway in the clinical area, he added.
Commons health select committee chair Kevin Barron, Labour MP for Rother Valley, said in his constituency all student nurses doing their practical work in Rotherham had got jobs while Rotherham General hospital had made three compulsory redundancies from administrative staff.
He said: 'To read the local press one would think hundreds of staff at our local district general hospital would be out of work.'
He added: 'My voice is going hoarse from talking to organisations such as the RCN which keeps saying to the media that there are hundreds if not thousands of job losses.' The RCN had yet to give him evidence to support this, he claimed. He told the Commons: 'In my view, posts unfilled are not jobs lost.'
A spokesperson for Rotherham foundation trust said it made three redundancies in March, and had since shed 160 posts without any redundancies.
However, redundancies are still expected at several hospitals. Plymouth Hospitals trust has 99 job losses on its books and may issue compulsory notices this month. University Hospital of North Staffordshire trust has issued 121 redundancy notices since September and has more to go as it sheds 1,000 posts.