Tuesday 22 August 2017 01:58:54 PM

Ritchie Seeks Urgent Meeting With Trust Over Staffing Issues
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SOUTH Down MP Margaret Ritchie and Down District Councillor Colin McGrath have called for South East Health and Social Trust Management to urgently review a recent decision to slash the hours offered to Bank and Agency staff providing essential Patient Experience at the Downe Hospital.

The changes to approximately fifty Bank Staff have were effective immediately. Bank Staff work in domestic and catering services, as porters and in Patient Experience.

Margaret Ritchie MP has asked fro a meeting with the South eastern Trust to discuss the job changes taking place.

Margaret Ritchie MP has asked fro a meeting with the South eastern Trust to discuss the job changes taking place.

Margaret Ritchie said: “We have been approached by a number of staff at the hospital who are concerned that the cut in hours for staff will detrimentally impact patient safety at the hospital.

“It is crucial that the appropriate number of hours allocated to staff covers the range of work that needs to be undertaken at the Downe and that cover is provided when full-time staff are off sick or away from work.

“I have asked for an urgent meeting with Trust officials to determine the impact of this announcement and to see if additional resources can be secured to mitigate the impact’

A spokesperson fro the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said: “All Trust services are being examined to respond to current budgetary pressures, and as a result the Trust is having to significantly constrain the use of Bank cover staff.  No full-time staff are having their hours reduced. This will reduce our bank cover by approximately 150 hours and NOT 150 staff.”

Margaret Ritchie responded by saying: “In consultation with the staff and to understand the depth and gravity of the situation, several questions have emerge which require answers and clarification:

“How many staff are employed by the Trust by grade and job type?  Could this figure be broken down into each facility that is operated by the Trust?

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie says North-South projects can aid economic recovery

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie is deeply concerned at cuts to hours of staff in local hospitals in the South Eastern Trust area.

“How many Bank and Agency staff by job type and grade/band  are employed by the Trust within each facility?  What were the comparative figure this time last year and in October 2010 and 2009?

“How many staff by grade and job type who work within the Patient Experience sector receive overtime hours in each facility that is operated by the Trust?  What were the comparative figure this time last year and in October 2010 and 2009?””

What has been the duration of employment with the Trust for each of the Bank staff in each pay band and job type in each of the last 5 years in all facilities operated by the Trust?

“How many staff were affected by last week’s announcement in all facilities operated by the Trust?

“Were they employed on zero hour contracts?

What was the reason for this decision?   Was it due to efficiency savings, deficit situation or overspend?  I note from the Trust minutes that the body was in a serious deficit situation of £5.3 million as of the 31st July 2013.   Why did this arise?   What was the deficit situation at the 30th September 2013?”

“If there was an overspend, how much is this overspend, and why did it occur?

How long will this situation persist?   Will it last until the new financial year?

What financial measures have been put in place to rectify the deficit or overspend situation?  Have the Departments of Finance and Health as well as the Health and Social Services Board been advised of this situation, and if so, what was their response?   Did they outline a plan of rectification measures for implementation purposes?

Councillor Colin McGrath is angry at cuts to hours of staff.

Councillor Colin McGrath is angry at cuts to hours of staff.

What security of tenure (in job terms) exists for Bank staff by job band/grade and type exist within the Trust?  What was the advice of the Human Resources department in relation to this matter?

What duty of care has the Trust put in place to protect Agency/Bank and permanent staff by job title and pay band who are employed in facilities operated by the Trust?

Did the Trust undertake an evaluation of the impact of their decision to end the contracting of Bank staff for Patient Experience work on the delivery of service to patients in each of their facilities?

What will be the impact on patients in each of their facilities operated by the Trust?

Will the impact by greater in the Downe Hospital, Downshire Hospital and community facilities owned by the Trust within the Down area?

Who will now undertake the work normally carried out by the Bank staff in each of the facilities within the Trust as part of the Patient Experience programme?

How many vacancies exist within the portering/catering/domestic/transport grades within each of the facilities in the Trust area?  How long has each of the vacancies existed?  What programme of action has the Trust in place to fill these vacancies?

What financial forecasts have the Trust undertaken in the last few months?  Could this situation have been avoided through better financial forecasting and management?

Joining the South Down MP in her call for adequate resources was local Down District Councillor Colin McGrath, SDLP local health spokesman.

He added:  “Our hospital is crucial to the people of our area and the experience that patients receive is paramount. Such a deep cut will undoubtedly have a major and direct impact upon patients at the hospital.

“I would query how hours are crucial one week and able to be cut the next.

“I would query how areas such as waiting rooms and corridors can be given less prominence and attention and yet a safe service still be provided.

“And I would query how ethical it is to cut the hours of staff, some of whom have been working for over ten years full time, down to only a handful of hours per week.

“I hope that a meeting with the Senior Management of the Trust can be arranged urgently to allow a full and frank conversation to take place about the impacts of this decision upon patients and the people of Down District.”