Hospital chiefs have been given the green light to open their voluntary redundancy scheme to all workers.

The Examiner revealed last week how Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust had applied to HM Treasury to open a wide ranging scheme as it struggles to balance its books.

The scheme has now been approved and it is thought about 400 staff could go.

Unison, the largest union at the Trust, has expressed fears that compulsory redundancies may follow.

Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman has warned the plan may see the Trust lose its best people.

Chief executive at the Trust, Owen Williams, revealed some workers at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital had already agreed to leave.

At Kirklees Council’s scrutiny panel for Well Being and Communities, Mr Williams told councillors that each application would be reviewed against patient safety and hospital needs.

Owen Williams, new chief executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust
Owen Williams, new chief executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust
 

“If we deem we need that person, they will not be allowed to go,” he said.

The redundancy plan comes as the Trust predicts it will dip into the red for the first time in more than a decade.

It had hoped to deliver a £3m surplus this year but after a turbulent two years of change in the NHS it is now predicting a £4m overspend.

In a message to staff, Julie Hull, director of workforce, said: “These are challenging times for the Trust and the whole of the workforce that we all value so much.

“I am sure that it will be in everyone’s best interests to work together closely throughout this significant period of change for us all and I and my team will do whatever we can to make this work positively.”

Jane Gledhill, a co-opted member of the scrutiny panel, told Mr Williams he was in an “unenviable position” with shrinking resources at the same time as increasing patient numbers. Many patients were more ill than previously.

And Mrs Gledhill slammed the expensive private finance (PFI) contract set up to build Calderdale Royal, blamed for restricting the re-development of services.

“A lot of your problems stem from the PFI and other schemes,” she said.

“Coming down the line it could cost you an A&E department. It was too high a price to pay.”

A & E department at Calderdale Royal Hospital
A & E department at Calderdale Royal Hospital
 

Mrs Gledhill praised hospital chiefs for not cutting too deep in the short term in a bid to sustain patient safety and staffing levels.

But she questioned the amount of non-clinical staff employed by the Trust compared to “frontline” staff and the recent expensive projects to refurbish wards.

Mr Williams said he thought the new electronic patient record system may enable a reduction in admin workers and said he thought it was comparable to most hospitals.

Medical director David Birkenhead said the ward revamps had been “absolutely essential.”

He added: “Let’s face it, they were built in the 1960s and they hadn’t been touched since.

“We had cracked floors and dirty ceilings that we couldn’t clean.”

Mr Williams said the refurbishments had been necessary to satisfy health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.