Job losses and ward closures planned across Essex hospitals

Hospital bosses want to let 150 staff go and mothball 150 beds across Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (MSEFT), UNISON has warned today.

​The trust plans to launch a voluntary severance scheme* next week to cut the 150 ‘non-frontline clinical’ posts.​

In a meeting with union reps this week, trust leaders were not able to clarify which jobs were at risk, even though the scheme has already been approved by NHS England, says UNISON.

And they also couldn’t say how these job losses related to plans revealed in April to scrap 600 posts through not filling vacancies.

The 150 beds that senior trust managers are looking to shut are across its hospitals in Basildon, Chelmsford and Southend.

Staff were told this week that the 27-bed Stambridge ward in Southend University Hospital would close, with a further 27 beds going at Chelmsford’s Broomfield Hospital through closing Bardfield ward and reducing capacity elsewhere.

But managers appear to have no idea where the remaining 96 bed casualties are to come from, says the union.

UNISON says MSEFT is already running close to capacity. NHS England figures show an average 1,750 of 1,869 overnight beds and 97 of the 110 day beds were occupied in the first quarter of 2024. This meant there were just 132 free beds, which would have left 18 patients a day without somewhere to stay if the cuts had already been implemented.

That’s the same number of patients who were stuck on trollies in corridors at Basildon Hospital on Monday (3 June), says the union.

UNISON has also raised concerns that the sweeping organisational changes are being made a month away from the general election, which could have major implications for NHS funding and structures.

The union’s national head of health Helga Pile wrote to NHS leaders this week urging them to pause any restructures during the purdah period.

UNISON Basildon, Southend and Mid Essex Health branch secretary Joyce Aldridge said: “Short-staffing and a lack of beds is already putting the trust under severe strain. These cuts are sure to hit the quality of patient care.

“The whole NHS is creaking under the pressure of a decade and a half of underfunding. But Mid and South Essex leaders have serious questions to answer about how they’ve got into this mess.

“Trust bosses don’t know — or won’t tell us — where two-thirds of the bed closures would be. It’s also been impossible to establish which ‘non-frontline clinical’ jobs are on the chopping block or how they relate to the 600 posts they’ve already said are disappearing.

“It’s clear MSEFT desperately needs a cash injection, but its senior managers also need to start being more open and transparent about how they’re going to manage this difficult situation and what they’re planning to do with crucial beds and key staff.”