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Deficit-hit British hospital to cut 1,000 jobs

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Mar 16 (Reuters) A British state-funded hospital said today it would cut 1,000 staff to save money to prevent its deficit doubling to 30 million pounds (53 million dollar) next year.

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) said it had begun a 90-day consultancy with its 6,500 staff over the job cuts.

It said 750 of them may be compulsory redundancies and that 350 nursing jobs would go.

The job cuts are among the largest in a wave of cutbacks across the National Health Service (NHS), which has led to delays to non-urgent treatments, freezes in recruitment and medical job losses.

The north midlands-based hospital said it planned to maintain patient services while introducing efficiency savings.

These included reducing the time patients spent in hospital and increasing the number of operations carried out as day-cases.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is battling to reduce a projected 623 million pound overspend this year in the NHS's 76 billion pound budget.

In January, Hewitt said she was sending in ''turnaround teams'' of financial specialists into the UHNS and 17 other health trusts facing the ''greatest financial risks.'' A UHNS spokesman said the hospital was expecting to run a 15.5 million pound deficit this financial year, but said the overspend would balloon to 30 million pounds without cutbacks.

The trust's chief executive, Antony Sumara, said he was ''deeply saddened'' by the need to cut jobs.

''This is a very good hospital and I know it is only through the tremendous efforts of our staff that we have met our targets and made changes to our working practices that have so improved life for our patients,'' he said.

The Department of Health said the trust had over the last five years seen ''huge improvements in cancer and cardiac services, substantial reductions in waiting times and significant increases in staff''.

But it added: ''We expect all NHS organisations to live within their budget whilst providing patients with better services, and the majority are.'' The government is pumping record sums into the health service, which by 2007 will have almost trebled in a decade to 92 billion pounds.

But it is also demanding that hospital and primary care trust chief executives keep their spending under control.

Last week Nigel Crisp resigned as chief executive of the NHS, a decision many commentators linked to the health service's swelling deficit.

REUTERS SK RAI0154

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