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RCN issues posts warning over hospital merger plan

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The Royal College of Nursing has urged NHS managers in the North West to protect frontline jobs amid plans to merge North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust with another trust.

North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust has announced it is seeking to join forces with a foundation trust “through a merger or acquisition”, because it would not be able to achieve FT status on its own by the government’s deadline of April 2014.

Trust chair Mike Little said the move would make the organisation more financially stable.

But the RCN has called for assurances on jobs. It said NHS North West “must require that all potential partners commit to both maintaining and improving staffing levels, skills mix and terms and conditions”.

The RCN’s spokesman for the northern region said: “Our priority is to ensure that any merger ensures the quality of care that patients receive is maintained to the highest standard, and we do not think that this could be achieved by cutting the numbers of frontline staff.”.

The three acute foundation trusts being considered as potential partners are University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, Northumbria Healthcare and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals.

“The key thing is that it needs to be a financially viable take-over or merger,” said the RCN spokesman.

“It does not make sense to go with a trust that has already indicated it is going to cut national terms and conditions.”

Morecambe Bay recently warned of substantial job cuts as it strives to cut at least £15 million from its budget for the next financial year.

Another key concern was that the trust, services and employees “remain within the NHS family”, said the spokesman.

North Cumbria chief executive Carole Heatly said a senior-level project group would be formed to take the scheme forward and promised to consult staff.

She said closure of maternity or A&E units was not under discussion.

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