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Update: Fears raised that Norfolk and Suffolk’s proposals to cut 500 mental health jobs could have a “devastating impact”

PUBLISHED: 14:09 23 October 2012 | UPDATED: 14:15 23 October 2012

Bob Blizzard, Labours prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Waveney constituency

Bob Blizzard, Labours prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Waveney constituency

Archant © 2011

Proposals to shed 500 front-line jobs and 20pc of inpatient beds could have a “devastating impact” on mental health services across Norfolk and Suffolk, it has been warned.

A union has also blasted the government for forcing Norfolk and Suffolk’s mental health trust to make the cuts over the next four years, which are part of a drive to save £20bn across the entire NHS.

Bob Blizzard, Labour’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Waveney constituency, said inpatient beds were already oversubscribed and community mental health teams had been reduced in his area.

He said: “If staff cuts on this scale go ahead, it must surely have a devastating impact on local mental health services.

“From my contact with staff, it’s clear they are already under severe pressure and morale is low.

“Demand for mental health care seems to be increasing not decreasing.”

Jeff Keighley, Unison’s Norfolk health regional organiser, echoed the view that demand for mental health services was increasing.

He said: “We are not in dispute with the trust about this, they are having to do it because they have got no choice and they are trying to do it in the right way.”

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust says the proposed changes are part of radical redesign being led by clinicians in response to a tough NHS efficiency drive, which means it has to cut 5pc out of its budget every year for the next few years.

While the trust says it is hopeful that it will not have to make any compulsory redundancies, and that inpatient beds will only be axed when there is evidence they are no longer needed, concerns have been raised over the impact the changes could have on staff and patients.

The trust employs around 4,500 staff, but the redesign only involves a pool of around 2,130 workers.

It has been keeping vacancies open and as of the end of August this year had the equivalent of 254 full-time vacancies, which means that it has to cut another 247 jobs by the end of March 2016.

The trust has now entered into a 90-day consultation with staff and says it expects the proposals to change during that time due to the feedback it receives.

It is also pledging that when inpatient beds are cut, which is due to be towards the end of the four-year process, no area will be left without any at all.

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