South East Wales

Cardiff and Vale health board boss before AMs over jobs threat

Nurse generic
Image caption The Welsh Conservatives said the plans were 'barmy' while Unison said any job cuts were 'unnecessary'

The boss of one of Wales' largest health boards has appeared before assembly members to explain a decision that has left hundreds of workers at risk of losing their jobs.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has to find £61.4m of savings in this financial year and a further £56.7 million in 2013/14.

In June the health board announced plans to close almost 400 posts.

Its chief executive Adam Cairns said it faced tough choices.

He told the committee that due to the scale of financial savings required and the impact of staff pay on the overall budget, it would be "intellectually dishonest" to pretend there would not be an impact on worker numbers.

Mr Cairns said only between 20 and 40 of the job losses would be compulsory redundancies and insisted that a constructive dialogue was ongoing with unions.

He added that there was a need for a discussion across Wales about the terms and conditions of contracts in the NHS in Wales.

But the Welsh Conservatives have called the plans "barmy" while the Unison union said any job cuts were "unnecessary".

Cardiff and Vale is responsible for the University Hospital of Wales, Llandough Hospital and other units around the Welsh capital.

In evidence submitted to the assembly's public accounts committee, the Cardiff and Vale board outlined plans to save money by:

  • Changing the way that some services were delivered
  • Reducing the length of time that patients stayed in hospital
  • Efficiency savings

Members of the public accounts committee had the chance to question Mr Cairns on Tuesday.

In the letter to the committee before the meeting, he said the health board faced tough choices as 45% of its costs related to staff pay.

"This means that in order to manage in a flat cash environment with a national pay increase, continuing requirement to fund incremental pay awards and no changes to terms and conditions, either workforce numbers need to reduce or average pay needs to reduce," said Mr Cairns.

Unison officials have organised a rally at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay against redundancies on Wednesday.

A petition will be presented to the National Assembly calling on the Welsh government to oppose what petitioners describe as "draconian" cuts.

'Increasing pressure'

"Our members are understandably concerned for their jobs, but they are also really angry that the health board has chosen to take this unnecessary decision rather than work in partnership to resolve this situation," said Mike Jones, Cardiff and Vale health branch secretary for Unison.

"In a wider sense when you take into consideration the strains around staffing level, we have fears for the impact job cuts could have on patient safety.

"NHS staff in Cardiff and Vale have been working hard to deal with the increasing pressure and demand on health services.

"They should be applauded for their commitment and dedication to the NHS rather than told that they may lose their jobs or have their pay cut."

The Welsh Conservatives have criticised the proposed job cuts and questioned their timing.

"It's absolutely barmy to cut hundreds of staff at a time when waiting lists are rocketing and unscheduled care is in crisis," said the party's shadow health minister Darren Millar.

"The board's report is extremely disturbing and will make worrying reading for patients."

Tracy Myhill, deputy chief executive of the Cardiff and Vale board, said that although some 384 staff had been "potentially at risk" of losing their jobs back in June, action had been taken which limited the need for compulsory redundancies.

This included redeploying staff into vacancies, redesigning services, voluntary redundancies and closing vacant posts where they were no longer needed.

"We are confident that by the end of the year only a relatively small number of staff will find themselves in a redundancy position," she added.

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