Jobs axed after NHS cuts funds

July 27, 2007

Healthcare faculties forced to make redundancies as health service raids funding.

Scores of academics are being made redundant in healthcare departments across the university sector as National Health Service raids on training budgets continue to bite.

City University is planning to make at least 78 staff redundant from its Institute of Health and Sciences, and The Times Higher has learnt that staff cuts are also being made in health departments at Southampton, Anglia Ruskin, London South Bank, Thames Valley and Sunderland universities.

The Department of Health revealed in March that strategic health authorities had taken £340 million (9 per cent) of training budgets for student nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists in 2006-07 to offset deficits elsewhere in the NHS.

The Council of Deans of Faculties of Nursing and Healthcare Professionals predicts that the number of new students commissioned for the next academic year is likely to fall again.

So concerned is the Higher Education Funding Council for England about the instability caused by uncertain NHS funding streams that it has written to the 28 institutions that receive more than 10 per cent of their income from the NHS to establish the extent of institutional risk. Hefce said that "at least a few institutions" are "facing large reductions in income". Its full report on the problems is due for publication this month.

City University said that 24 of the 78 posts to be axed are already vacant, and it hoped to achieve the other cuts through voluntary severance offers.

Lecturers at Southampton University wore black at last week's graduation ceremonies in protest agasint proposed job cuts in the School of Health Professions and Rehabilitation Sciences (SoHPRS). The university plans to offer 16 academics voluntary redundancy - almost a third of staff.

"We demand that the university bridge the funding gap to allow high-quality teaching to continue at SoHPRS by using its financial reserves," a University and College Union spokesperson said.

The union is criticising managers for discussing plans to change the university's logo at a time when teaching jobs are under threat.

A spokesperson for Southampton said the university was aware of considerable graduate unemployment among healthcare staff, which suggested that student numbers would not recover in the foreseeable future.

"The school has already seen a 9 per cent reduction in NHS commissions for student places in allied health professions this year, to be followed by a further 7.5 per cent in the coming academic year, and yet further loss of student places when the South East Coast and South West Strategic Health Authorities withdraw training contracts in 2008," the spokesperson said.

"Any short-term reallocation of university funds would not address the long term issue of loss of funding from the NHS."

London South Bank University is offering 15 healthcare staff severance packages. Thames Valley University's Faculty of Health and Human Sciences has been included in a university-wide voluntary redundancy scheme. The university said the faculty was not being specifically targeted.

Anglia Ruskin is seeking to cut ten staff from its new Faculty of Health and Social Care by the end of the year, in addition to 79 academics from across the university who are leaving under a voluntary severance scheme. Sunderland University is also in talks with the union over staff cuts in its School of Health, Natural and Social Sciences.

A spokesman for the Council of Deans said the redundancies across the sector would "result in the loss of irreplaceable experienced staff and damage the whole healthcare education infrastructure", despite the fact that demand for nurses in particular is expected to rocket in future, as ministers are predicting a shortage of 14,000 nurses by 2011.

"Universities will not be in a position to respond to future increased levels of demand," the council's spokesman said.

melanie.newman@thes.co.uk

WHO'S CUTTING

City University 78 staff
Southampton 16
Anglia Ruskin 10
London South Bank 15
Thames Valley is seeking volunteers for redundancy
Sunderland is in talks with union over staff cuts

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