Hewitt warns of more NHS job cuts to reduce deficits

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will be warned today that the spate of job cuts in the National Health Service will continue for at least another year.

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, will tell a Downing Street seminar on the cash crisis in the NHS that the shake-up of jobs is a short-term "pain" to guarantee a service free at the point of use for the future.

However, she will say there will be at least "a year of turbulence" and no "quick fix" as trusts eliminate deficits that have been hidden for years but have now been exposed by reforms.

Mr Blair has called national and local health bosses to the seminar at short notice as Labour MPs become concerned about the loss of jobs. More than 6,000 have been announced.

The Prime Minister will tell the seminar: "This is no time for the NHS to be shying away from reform. This small number of deficits has existed for some time, it is just that they have been concealed. Organisations that spend more than they receive can no longer hide this by moving money around the system."

Today's Downing Street meeting will be attended by Ms Hewitt, Sir Ian Carruthers, the acting chief executive of the NHS, and representatives from some of the 28 strategic health authorities' turnround teams sent in to help health trusts to eliminate the deficits. The aim will be to ensure lessons are learnt from the trusts which have wiped out their losses.

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust said yesterday that up to 500 jobs would have to go in the next 12 to 18 months to help it tackle debts of £28.6m. The trust said that it would cut back on temporary staff to reduce the number of permanent staff who are to be affected.