NHS Direct job cuts16th May 2006
NHS Direct, which was set up eight years ago, is proposing to cut hundreds of jobs and close over a fifth of its call centres, aiming to save £15m through the measures.
The proposals include closure of 12 of its smaller call centres, while expanding others, and cutting nearly 800 posts; unions say the measures are short-sighted and will put strain on other parts of the NHS.
NHS Direct, which was set up in 1997, said there were challenging times ahead, adding that patient care would not be compromised.
The plans propose to cut a total of 789 posts, 573 through redundancies and 216 through "natural turnover". The expansion of some of its call centres would also help create 376 new posts, making the total number actually lost approximately 400 out of a total of nearly 3,000.
The 12 call centres due to close are in Southport, Croydon, Brighton, Doncaster, York, Cambridge, Scunthorpe, Chester, Bolton, Preston, Chorley and Kensington.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said the proposals were designed to make sure that NHS Direct had 'the right staff with the right skills in the right places'. David Edmonds, Chairman of NHS Direct, said that they must ensure 'a service which offers excellent clinical quality for patients and value for money for our commissioners and taxpayers.'
Karen Jennings, Unison's head of health, said that the innovative advice line has been hailed as a success for providing a 24/7 lifeline to parents and families, anxious about sick children and relatives. She added that the cuts were very short sighted, saying "Staff can take up to 25,000 calls a day and cutting the service will put immediate pressure on GP surgeries and A&E departments particularly at night, weekends and bank holidays."
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