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Fears of hospital staff shortages as King’s is forced to make savings of £86 million

King’s College Hospital staff have raised the alarm about their ability to deliver a safe service after the News revealed the Trust needs to £86million of savings this financial year just to balance the books.

A report to the hospital Trust’s board in July shows that £8million is to be saved in staff pay by March 2016.

King’s has said they will make these savings by replacing the agency staff they employ with permanent nurses and doctors and not “automatically filling” vacancies as they arise.

Speaking to the News, Frank Wood of the Unite union, said he supported the move to take on more permanent staff but was concerned this would not be enough to make the £8million of savings to the hospital’s salary bill, which could instead result in a “real reduction in staffing levels across the Trust” if vacancies were not filled.

“Already departments are aware of freezes on recruiting to vacant posts and staff have real concerns regarding their workload and their ability to deliver a safe service,” he said.

The Royal College of Nursing has confirmed it has raised concerns with King’s about the “growing deficit” which last year reached £47million – which a hospital memo to staff called “the greatest financial challenge the Trust has ever faced.”

RCN London Regional Director Bernell Bussue said: “We were told that the Trust were looking at getting more full time nursing staff in place, and increasing their number of full time nursing posts, in order to bring down their bill for agency staff. This would be a positive move and we would support this way forward. We look forward to confirmation that Kings want to put in a financial plan which prioritises patient care and getting the right numbers of staff in place to keep patients safe,” he added.

Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said she would be keeping an eye on the situation at the hospital, which is an asset to so many local people. “It would be completely unacceptable to find wards closed, waiting times shooting up and services which local people rely on rationed. We must have safe levels of staffing at all times, and after two bad winters, it is vital that the hospital has the resources to be able to plan for and cope with winter pressures this year.”

A spokesperson for King’s said: “Patient safety is our top priority. By filling vacant positions with permanent rather than temporary staff, we will reduce agency fees while maintaining a full complement of clinical staff.”

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