HOSPITAL workers across the city have been invited to apply for redundancy as health chiefs battle to balance the books.
City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust has told staff they can apply for severance as part of efforts to reduce its costs in the coming financial year.
A spokesman for the trust said the scheme was part of its plan to reduce its cost base by six per cent in 2011-12.
He said: “Its aim is to create vacancies that do not need to be replaced, or which can be filled by redeployment of staff from posts that may no longer be required due to different ways of working.
“In a constantly-changing health service environment, the trust is constantly looking at ways of increasing efficiency and improved patient care through restructuring, redesigning of jobs and redeployment or reductions of staff.
“As a matter of policy, the trust is committed to achieving reductions on a voluntary basis wherever possible.”
In a leaked message to staff, Kate Griffin, director of human resources at City Hospitals Sunderland, said: “Given the difficult financial climate for the NHS over the coming years, the trust has advised trade union officials that we will launch a voluntary severance scheme (VSS) which formally opens today.”
“The aim of the VSS is to achieve financial savings on a voluntary basis.
“While the scheme does not impose any restrictions as to which staff groups may apply, decisions about which applications will be accepted will be determined in the strategic interests of the Trust.”
Ms Griffin said in the memo - dated January 24 - that the closing date for applications was February 19.
Helen Finkill, regional organiser at Unison, said the union was aware of the situation and had been involved in meetings with management.
She said: “We know that the hospital and NHS trust are having to make huge savings, like all public sector services across the city and country. We welcome any move to seek voluntary redundancies over compulsory any day.”
* The 12 Primary Care Trust boards in the North East - including NHS South of Tyne and Wear and NHS County Durham and Darlington - will merge to form four boards in advance of Government plans to abolish them.
Under new plans for the NHS, all 151 PCTs in England are set to be abolished.