WORKFORCE: University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust has begun a staff consultation on plans to cut its workforce by up to 230 whole time equivalents in a drive to make savings of £30m by the end of 2013-14.

According to the consultation document, the bulk of the workforce cuts – up to 120 – would come from measures to reduce length of stay.

To do this, the foundation trust proposes to increase day case procedures, cut pre-operative bed days, and make “full use” of flexibility in staff terms and conditions.

It has plans to close 40 beds at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary by 1 July this year, and a further 40 at Furness General Hospital by 1 October.

However, Morecambe Bay’s savings drive could see further cuts of up to 50 whole time equivalent staff from a review of its nursing workforce, 40 whole time equivalent staff from a review of clinical administrative support, and 20 whole time equivalent staff from a review of estates and facilities staff.

The consultation paper states: “The trust needs to reduce its cost base by approximately 13 per cent, becoming an organisation with a £250m turnover.

“This translates to saving approximately £1 in every £8 that we currently spend.”

In a bid to make those savings quickly, the trust proposes to halve the periods for which staff are entitled to protection of their earnings after being down-banded or losing salary enhancements.

Morecambe Bay’s latest finance report shows it recorded a deficit of £24.8m for the first 11 months of 2012-13.

Its finances have nosedived over the past two financial years, as the foundation trust invested to improve quality after a major care quality scandal. In May last year, responding to a review of high death rates at the trust, its then interim chief executive Eric Morton told HSJ: “We’ve been told our mortality isn’t where it should be. There’s an indicator that staffing levels could be a significant contributor to that, so I’m going to move on from that and increase staffing.”

Royal College of Nursing officer Jonathan Bowker said the trust’s 45 day consultation was “very worrying news” and the RCN was “extremely worried about how these cuts to staffing levels will affect patients and their care”.

He added: “These cuts will heap even greater pressure onto already overstretched staff, who have very genuine worries for the future of patient safety and quality of care.”

The trust said in a statement: “All schemes must undergo a Quality Impact Assessment requiring the final sign off from the divisional clinical director, medical director and executive chief nurse. To be signed off, schemes must be able to demonstrate through this process that they will not negatively impact on patient safety or quality of experience.”