Up to 750 jobs could be axed at Rotherham Foundation Trust as it looks to save £50m by 2015.

A confidential consultation document reveals the trust is planning to make hundreds of staff redundant, with ward closures and large scale down-banding of senior staff.

While the initial proposals are for 500 redundancies, the document warns the trust could be forced to make a further 250 redundancies in the future. This would equate to more than 16 per cent of its workforce of more than 4,500 staff.

One employee, who asked not to be named, said: “Not surprisingly the atmosphere of distress and anger is almost palpable.  Yesterday I saw nurses visibly crying in the corridors.”

The trust is expected to deliver £21m savings by the end of this financial year, a figure which would leave £29m to be found over the next two years.

Proposals include making all the trust’s specialist nurses and matrons on bands 8, 7 and 6 redundant and then re-employing some of them at one band lower than their current roles.

In addition, a series of ward reconfigurations involving critical care, clinical radiology, and accident and emergency will see many members of nursing staff down-banded or at risk of redundancy.   

Six band 7 case managers from the trust’s chief nurse directorate are at risk of redundancy, as are a number of community nurses employed by the trust.

The trust is also planning to save £2m by closing two medical wards and a surgical ward by March 2013, with 86 staff at risk.

There will also be cuts to the number of medical secretaries, receptionists, clerks, senior management and clinical services departments, as well as cuts in outpatient services, medical job plans and therapy staff.

The trust has said a voluntary redundancy and mutually agreed resignation scheme (MARS) earlier this year failed to deliver enough savings and it has written again to staff who expressed an interest.

Where possible the trust has said it will look to reduce staff numbers through natural wastage and has frozen external recruitment.

Howard Catton, head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is classic ‘salami slicing’ to make savings, but on a scale we have not seen before.

“It is a mass down banding and redundancy exercise and flies in the face of what we have heard in recent months that cutting posts is not a sustainable strategy. We know there are serious risks of an impact on the quality of care.”

Mr Catton said a risk assessment of the potential impact on quality and the patient experience was “notably absent” from the consultation document on the plans.

In a statement the trust admitted the proposals would impact on all staff groups and grades.

It said: “We are proposing to make up to 500 posts redundant across the trust, but expect that this will be nearer to 300. It is hoped that a significant proportion of these redundancies will be achieved through vacancies or voluntary redundancies, but it seems likely that some will unfortunately need to be compulsory.”

Matthew Lowry, acting chief executive, added: “We are working closely with unions and appropriate staff representatives to manage the process in an open and transparent manner and work with affected staff in the most sensitive way we can.

“Clearly this is an anxious time for staff concerned and a testing time for all of us at the trust – making people redundant is an unhappy responsibility and we have not made this proposal lightly.”