Top health jobs remain unfulfilled

MARK NICHOLLS Norfolk's debt-ridden primary care trust is facing a crippling staffing crisis with numerous key positions unfilled. Many of the empty posts at Norfolk PCT are in the critical £40,000-£70,000 pay bracket and several involve positions concerned with negotiating contractual arrangements with GPs, dentists and community pharmacists.

MARK NICHOLLS

Norfolk's debt-ridden primary care trust is facing a crippling staffing crisis with numerous key positions unfilled.

Many of the empty posts at Norfolk PCT are in the critical £40,000-£70,000 pay bracket and several involve positions concerned with negotiating contractual arrangements with GPs, dentists and community pharmacists.

Details of the growing recruitment crisis emerged at the board's monthly meeting yesterday.

Yet the staff shortage in critical areas coincides with looming redundancies in other departments as the fallout from merging five former PCTs into a county-wide organisation takes hold.

Already about 180 jobs have gone since last October at Norfolk PCT.

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However, chairman Sheila Childerhouse defended the trust and said the position had arisen because, while the PCT was losing staff, it also required a changing skill mix.

“What we are looking for are the people with the right sort of skills,” she said.

“I am passionate about getting the right people in the right jobs.”

The board heard that its end-of-year deficit was likely to grow up to £49m, subject to final calculations, but in some areas it has started to make considerable savings and hit targets as part of its turnaround plan, which is geared towards helping it balance its books.

But the jobs crisis is a major issue and, in a report to the board, head of performance Peter Gosling said: “Completing key appointments in the PCT and the completion of the reorganisation remains a critical step towards delivering financial turnaround, particularly within the commissioning directorate.

“Advertisements are being placed to attract candidates to fill a significant number of unfilled posts.

“Many involved in the turnaround programme want to hand over responsibilities to others in the new structure who will be the appropriate people to lead specific initiatives, but in many cases there is no one yet to hand over to.”

Ironically, with the PCT moving towards being a more commissioning-led organis-ation, the commissioning directorate is the worst-affected, with “significant gaps”.

It has been without a director of commissioning since February 1 when Audrey Bradford stepped down along with interim chief executive Hilary Daniels.

But job advertisements in the Health Service Journal recently were primarily for commissioning staff, or those at a higher level.

Some offered salaries of £60,000-£73,000.

Other key departures recently have included director of clinical service Rob Colebrook.

Of the document presented to the board, non-executive director Martin Stephenson said: “This is a report full of warnings with no sign of continuity of staff.

“There are serious alarm bells here.”

Prof Stephenson said there was a scenario in which people were leaving the PCT with no sign of a replacement.

He also asked that future turnaround reports should not simply be presented to the board to highlight a problem, but also offer solutions and a course of action.