“I’m not going to stand idly by and watch Solihull Hospital being downgraded in any way.”
Those are the words of crusading councillor Jim Ryan (Cons, Bickenhill) who yesterday pledged to defend services at the hospital.
His words came after the NHS trust that runs Solihull Hospital chose last Friday to announce it was shedding 1,600 staff across its three sites over the next four years.
The Heart of England Foundation Trust, which also runs Good Hope and Heartlands hospitals, has to make efficiency savings of four per cent per year for the next four years.
The trust must save £16.7 million this financial year.
Mark Newbold, chief executive of HEFT said that although the amount of cash was the equivalent of 1,600 posts the savings would be found through various means, including greater efficiency, retirements and natural wastage.
However Coun Ryan warned against any downgrading of services: “Until a year ago I served on the governing body for Heart of England Trust.
“If anyone thinks that Solihull people are a soft touch they are strongly mistaken. There is a reservoir of resistance in me against any diminishing of Solihull services. Once you lose them they won’t come back.”
Mr Newbold said: “On average 600 staff each year change jobs, leave the trust or retire so we believe that these reductions can be made through careful planning and working differently.”
Solihull MP Lorely Burt (Lib Dem) said: “It is important to note that the Government is increasing the budget of the NHS in real terms. What we don’t want to do is preserve the NHS in aspic.”
However the trade union Unison said the cuts represented 20 per cent of the trust’s workforce.
“Twenty per cent cuts over a four year period is unprecedented, dangerous and will impact on patient care,” said local Unison organiser Rob Johnson.
“The work still exists and that will be dumped on nurses. You will have a diminshed NHS in Solihull.”
Unison’s regional organiser Ray Salmon added: “We have already seen maternity services centralised away from Solihull, which is midwife lead. What’s to stop other services being downgraded?”