Conquest - nurses shock

THE CASH-STRAPPED NHS is dipping into the pockets of staff to help pay its way.

Workers at the DGH and Conquest have already been told that they must pay to park at the hospital from December. Now it has been revealed that nurses will have to fund 'essential professional development courses' themselves.

The Strategic Health Authority has slashed the budget for externally-funded professional development by 70 per cent.

Nurses must complete a minimum of five days' training every three years to keep up with changes, and re-register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

A DGH spokesman said all learning and development funding agreed at the beginning of the financial year will be honoured.

However, after that, the courses will have to be funded by staff themselves.

A member of the public who contacted the Herald on behalf of a nurse at the hospital said they were concerned that nurses would not be able to afford the training cost on their salaries.

The move was described as a further blow to morale in the wake of parking charges and other uncertainty about services at the hospital.

Another angry resident has accused DGH bosses of 'ripping off' staff by making them pay to park.

In a letter to the Herald, the woman argued that the move, which the health trust said was to boost the hospital's Healthy Transport initiative, was purely a cash-boosting exercise.

"This is not to save the Earth but just to make money for the hard-up Trust. How low can they rip off their own personnel like this?

"This inevitably will cause a lot of bad feeling. Where else would you have to pay to go to work?

"I feel sure that after you read this you will get the impression that the hospital Trust does not care too much about the staff and their morale. I hope they care more about their patients."

The DGH announced this week that staff would be charged to park from December 1.

Workers will have to pay 50p a day or 30p for those working fewer than five hours a day.

The daily rate is an incentive to encourage staff to leave their car at home and seek alternative ways to work, said a DGH spokesperson.

David Philliskirk, director of estates and facilities, said, "Staff car parking charges are in place in many NHS Trusts and have been for several years.

"Our staff recognise the importance of Healthy Transport and are keen to support it, although it is acknowledged that the introduction of parking charges is not popular."

Other cost saving measures recently accounced include the closure of the kitchen at the DGH, resulting in job losses. Food in future will be cooked at the Conquest and driven over from Hastings.

A DGH spokesman said, "The kitchen at the Conquest is less than five-years-old, the one at the DGH is more than 30 and requires a significant refurbishment.

"It is our intention to provide for the whole Trust from a single, centralised production unit sited at the Conquest for distribution to all sites."