Nurses, unions and other medical staff have issued an unprecedented joint attack on management at a trust and is calling for senior officials to go.
It is claimed the board of North Cumbria University Hospitals trust has lost the confidence of many employees in its ability to provide NHS services.
In a damning joint statement they claim the trust, which is making £15m of cuts, “squandered” money, citing examples of £466 spent to replace a light fitting, £75 to install an air freshener in a cubicle, and £184 to install a bell in a reception area.
But while frontline staff have been on a two-year pay freeze, Dr Neil Goodwin, the interim chief executive, has received a 63% pay increase to £129,000 a year, for a three-day week, it is claimed.
The trust runs Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven.
The statement has been issued jointly by trust staff who are members of the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, Unite, the Royal College of Physiotherapy, the GMB, the Society of Radiographers, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.
The joint statement said: “We, the health unions, royal colleges and professional associations note with grave concern the ongoing cuts and restructuring programmes which are currently being implemented by the executive team and board at North Cumbria University Hospitals trust.
“It is the professional opinion of our members that the trust’s cuts and restructuring programmes are not in the interests of patients or the public living and working in Cumbria. Furthermore, it is our position that the quality and safety of patient care is suffering as a direct result of mismanagement of existing resources at the trust.
“The issues we have identified are having a negative effect on the ability of all staff across all disciplines to undertake their roles in an effective way, and are also having a negative effect on partnership and team working.”
The statement said the Department of Health and healthcare information provider Dr Foster have published data showing that the trust has higher than expected mortality ratios. It added that staff morale is at an “all-time low”, stress levels are high through over-work, and the management is proposing further cuts while it is claimed wards are already under-staffed.
Unions have claimed staff have been bullied and intimidated into not reporting incidents affecting patient quality and safety. The statement also claims the trust has closed 79 beds in the last two years and now employs 38 fewer nurses.
It ends: “For the above reasons we therefore declare that we no longer have confidence in the trust to deliver a safe and effective service, and call on the trust executive and board to consider their positions accordingly.”
In response, the trust said patient safety was “at the centre of everything it does”. “We are offering to meet with the full-time union officers to discuss any concerns they many have, it said in a statement.
“We would again like to directly thank all of our staff who work tirelessly in support of providing great care to the people of north Cumbria and who are themselves developing all of the savings ideas to improve the trust’s financial position and use of taxpayers’ resources without impacting on the delivery of safe services for our patients.
“The trust has for many years faced a difficult financial position and these issues need to be addressed and in improving our financial position, there are checks and balances involving our senior clinical leaders to ensure that the needs of patients are always at the forefront of all we do,” it added.
“The trust directors meet formally with union representatives each month to discuss key issues facing the trust and to manage any concerns they have. In addition to this, the trust directors are happy to meet with the full-time officers concerned to discuss their concerns in greater detail.
“The trust will not, however, move away from exploring areas that will save money for the taxpayer that could involve improving the outcomes of the patients we care for.”