Oxfordshire hospital’s mental health jobs face axe

Mental health sufferers in Oxfordshire are at risk as a quarter of all hospital community jobs face the chop, the Unite union has warned.

Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust is currently in a six-week consultation over plans to axe 50 jobs out of 200 from its adult services community mental health teams.

The plans are part of a cost-cutting exercise to slash £5.3 million over the next four years, with over £3m expected to come from community services.

It is estimated that the cuts could increase mental health workers’ caseload by at least five people, on top of the already overloaded casework of between 10 and 20 people per worker.

Unite regional officer Debbie Watson said: “This will have a devastating effect on services for adults and older people in Oxfordshire.

“Local GPs and patients will struggle to access community mental health services, and the pressures on staff to see more people will damage the quality of care and compromise safety.

“There will be a large reduction in community staff, and those remaining will be expected to carry bigger caseloads. Other proposals such as reducing home visits, and desk-sharing are on the cards as part of the plan.”

The union is launching a campaign to stop the cuts from being forced through and is urging local residents to get involved.

According to the union the trust is planning to employ performance managers to make teams work more “efficiently.”

There are also concerns that senior posts are being reduced so that less qualified staff will be expected to do more complex work.

Ms Watson said: “There is concern that the trust has underestimated the impact of the proposals and that the reorganisation is cost-driven rather than care-driven.”

She added the trust’s increased use of unregistered workers was a camouflage to make the cuts seem less severe.

A spokesman for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire MHT said: “In the current financial climate where all public-sector services are being asked to use their money wisely and work more effectively, it is key that Oxfordshire Community Mental Health services increase efficiency and productivity.”