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Norfolk hospital lines up evening and weekend work

PUBLISHED: 07:11 24 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:22 06 July 2010

Anna Dugdale

Anna Dugdale

Norfolk's biggest hospital is planning to move towards seven-day-a-week and evening working to help it deal with a future financial crisis.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is making plans for a reduction in its income from 2011.

Norfolk's biggest hospital is planning to move towards seven-day-a-week and evening working to help it deal with a future financial crisis.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is making plans for a reduction in its income from 2011. If it has to cut its spending by 5pc it will mean a reduction of £20m, the equivalent of 700 members of staff. But hospital chairman David Prior said staff cuts are not the solution. Instead he wants the hospital to use its facilities “on a seven day a week basis”.

At yesterday's council of governors meeting, Mr Prior said: “We have seen significant increases in funding over the last seven years. It looks as though that is going to stop. We have to try to live through that. We have got to run the hospital more efficiently.”

Gill Webster, a governor from Broadland, said: “The public as whole demand there is a service 24-7. The hospital has got to move with the times.”

But consultant anaesthetist Rob Harwood said: “I don't think at the moment 24-7 working would be my principal focus. We have got to get our day-to-day working right before we can work 24-7.”

Chief executive Anna Dugdale said the changes would not happen overnight, and would not be possible under current employment contracts. She said: “We probably would not want to operate all services 24 hours a day. There is good evidence why you don't want to operate on someone on the middle of the night unless it is an emergency. We mean working our assets smarter, our scanners, our theatres, and getting the most out of them.

“We work in a market place for our staff, and we have a number of staff who are very skilled and hard to find. We are not talking a revolution here.”

Some departments have already started to work in a more flexible way. The radiology department is already doing this, and evening clinics are having to be held in ophthalmology because of increased numbers of glaucoma patients who now have to be seen in a hospital.

Sheila Ginty, a senior sister, said: “There have been some evening clinics where patients haven't turned up. It is not just a change for staff, it is a change for patients too.”

Tim Townshend, a governor from Norwich, said: “It would be better to treat each day of the week in the same manner. [At the moment] if you come into hospital on a Friday you have to wait till Monday for a scan. There will be a natural resistance, as there was with the shopworkers' union when Sunday opening was discussed - a lot of people said 'My Sunday is sacrosanct.'”

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