Healthcare staff ‘at breaking point’

editorial image

Healthcare staff in the southern area are working under extreme pressure “with many beyond breaking point”, it has been claimed.

A trust employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the public needed to be aware that services may not be maintained at current levels and that staff were struggling to provide even basic services.

The trust’s chief executive Mairead McAlinden said the trust was in a difficult financial position, but pledged that critical front line services, including those at Craigavon Area Hospital, will be maintained.

Kevin McAdam, regional officer for the UNITE union, said staff were having to do “as much as they can with as little as they can” and he would be concerned at the ability to protect front line services.

He said he had been contacted by health visitors who were having to carry out less frequent visits so they could fit in more people.

“By cutting back on such visits and on less critical preventative care, we are increasing the likelihood of more people needing front line services,” he added.

The trust has admitted that it is not on track to meet a minimum savings target of £9 million by March 2015.

However, Mrs McAlinden said the senior management team had taken a decision that staffing levels would not be reduced where it would make front line services unsafe.

Minutes of a staff briefing said that, where necessary, staff would be redeployed from less critical areas to “reduce flexible workforce spend or fill critical vacant posts. This will include both clinical and non-clinical staff”.

Staff have been instructed to cut spending in non-critical areas such as travel and conferences as of last month.

The chief executive said that in the past two years the trust had increased its workforce by 122 front line staff, of which 43 are nurses.

She said, “We continue to recruit new members of staff to fill critical vacant posts across the trust area. As a consequence of the decision not to compromise on patient safety, the budget for nursing was overspent by £3m at the end of August and is likely to double by the end of the year.

“I have emphasised the importance of staff being prepared to work in a flexible way and urged every member of staff, regardless of where in the trust they work, to look within their own area and see if savings can be released or productivity improved.”

Mrs McAlinden said she would keep staff informed.