By Niamh Anderson
A MAJOR Scottish health board is slashing another 400 nursing posts, it emerged today.
NHS Lothian has already made 800 job cuts this year, including more than 333 nursing posts.
Health chiefs now plan to axe a further 398 nursing jobs in the area by the end of the financial year.
This year’s reduction in staff at NHS Lothian amounts to a 4% cut in the workforce, the second biggest anywhere in mainland Scotland.
Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findley said he was shocked by the figures.
He said: “I am concerned for the nurses who may lose their jobs and for the patients they serve. This is bad news for us all.
“When we are hearing wards across Lothian are understaffed and clinical staff are under real pressure, I’m astonished the health board is cutting such large number of nurses.
“Scottish Health Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, should make a statement on the loss of so many nurses and provide the people of Lothian with full information on the impact that this will have on patient care. It is not good enough for her to remain silent on these potentially very damaging cutbacks.”
Lynn McDowall, of the Royal College of Nursing, said the cuts will badly affect patients in the area.
She said: “While health boards are under increasing pressure to balance their books and make savings, the Scottish Government should support NHS Lothian to make these difficult decisions to manage demand and change services, without compromising quality for the people of their care.
“They should be looking more carefully at how savings could be made in other areas, such as sharing clinical and backroom services.
The health board has said it can achieve the cuts through natural wastage and redeployment.
NHS Lothian said it had the highest proportion of nursing and clinical staff as a percentage of the overall workforce, and that percentage would not change as result of the latest cuts.
Lynn Khindria, NHS Lothian’s associate director of human resources, said the board was now more than half way through a two-year plan to reduce its workforce by 2000.
She said: “This has been achieved through natural staff turnover, redeployment and a reduction in the use of bank staff and overtime.
“Achieving a reduction in our workforce will play a key role in helping us to cope with the financial pressures and budget reductions which all health boards are facing.
“We are committed to protecting our essential frontline services and continue to recruit to posts in these areas.”
The Scottish Government declined to comment on the announcement.