BBC News reports that the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham has cut 700 jobs and closed three wards. The hospital, run by Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust, underwent a £225 million expansion, which opened in July 2009, funded by private sector money.
The hospital has confirmed both the job losses and closure of 100 beds, leaving three wards empty. The trust has achieved the 700 job cuts by not replacing staff, mostly clerical and admin positions, who have left over the past 18 months.
The reasons for the cuts are threefold. Firstly, as the expansion was funded by Private Finance Initiatives (PFI), the trust is committed to repayment of the debt and the mortgage and maintenance costs totalling £43 million annually. MPs are hoping to renegotiate the PFI contract since it restricts the decisions the hospital is able to make. Secondly, as the BBC has reported, the hospital's income dropped by 9% in 2010. Penny Mordaunt, Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, commented: "There are actually fewer patients going through the hospital than was originally planned, all of which makes a very challenging financial problem."
Lastly, the Government has cut the NHS budget by £20 billion forcing hospitals to make savings. Finance director for the hospital, Robert Toole, said the hospital was on course to save £29 million this financial year although he admitted the situation was 'challenging' but common throughout the NHS. However, even with these planned savings, a deficit of £6 million is still likely. The hospital recently approached Southampton General Hospital regarding a possible merger but this was not accepted.
One of the closed wards is the G5 Unit which offered facilities to care for terminally ill patients aged over 65. A trust spokesman said: "Patient care and experience are and will remain the highest priorities." However, despite this patient Hilda Woolgar was left in a discharge ward for the last four days of her life after suffering a stroke in January. Her daughter, Pamela Mulrooney, said: "She [her mother] passed away with no dignity….I felt she had been put in there to die, out of the way."
Whilst we appreciate the challenging financial situation that the trust has to deal with, we very much hope that the cuts will not impact on the standard of care provided to the patients receiving treatment at the hospital.