Is closing a profitable commercial unit whilst operating in continual financial deficit as a trust incompetence or wilful mismanagement, says GMB Southern
GMB, the union for healthcare staff in Sussex, has written to East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust Chief Executive Dr Adrian Bull to personally intervene to halt the ill-conceived proposal to close the £1.2 million plus per annum revenue creating Pharmacy Manufacturing Unit (PMU), asking if it is actually going to reduce trust costs.
The PMU which has operated at Eastbourne District Hospital for more than 35 years and currently employees around 22 staff, with some management roles filled on a temporary basis or sitting vacant, operates on a commercial basis with a primary objective, to generate a profit for reinvestment within trust services, which it achieves.
The unit whose products are sold under the ‘Eastbourne Pharmaceuticals’ brand, currently carry out two main types of activity; covering the over-labelling of licensed medicine (e.g. antibiotic and analgesic packs for issue directly to patients from emergency departments) and the pre-packing of licensed medicines purchased from the manufacturer or wholesaler, re-packaged to make suitable and distributed for use by over 250 external and internal customers including other NHS trusts, NHS pharmacy stores and private healthcare providers.
The PMU closure in April 2018 will potentially see many long serving pharmaceutical technical officers and assistants, along with office, procurement and support staff, facing redundancy if unable to be redeployed around the trust, into as yet unannounced similarly NHS banded roles and where skill sets match, or if those roles are even available.
GMB have called for a halt to the current consultation whilst the trust and union seek to access if the management consultation proposal really represents an accurate picture of the current and forecasted future for the unit, a picture that GMB members refuse to accept as accurate based on their day to day experiences and knowledge of the PMU and its customers.
GMB union have called for a meeting immediately to go through both the accuracy of the information supplied to the trust to date and to discuss options other than closure.
Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser said:
“GMB members have raised concerns that the trust proposal to close the unit is based on incorrect data and lack of research. As a consequence, the resulting flawed conclusions and forecast do not reflect either the current good market relationship the PMU has with its client base or the possible market growth that those working in the department are sure, with positive leadership, could be developed.
“Of course once again it will be the NHS staff and GMB members who may lose their jobs and have to pay for poor managerial decisions, like the one currently proposed, rather than those that make them.
“Not only is it disgraceful that a trust already placed in financial special measures by the CQC looks to close a unit creating much required funds for a trust in need of business units creating profits for reinvestment within their services, but to purposefully have a management team ignore the obvious potential for growth and increased profitability to unilaterally just scrap a team supplying not only external customers but its own hospital emergency department.
“We must question the commitment of senior management and unfortunately the Chief Exec as to whether they know what is best for the long term chances of the trust ever reducing the year on year deficit. Is closing a profitable commercial unit whilst operating in continual financial deficit as a trust incompetence or wilful mismanagement?
“The premise that closing a unit which makes over £2.6 million a year and generates a £1.2 million profit will save the trust money is ludicrous. Redeployed staff will still be paid the same salary elsewhere within the trust, AfC redundancy payments will need to be found for expertise lost if redeployment is not an option and any estate upkeep/repairs cost will still be required to buildings if repairs are the reason for the unit’s closure for any new department moving into it.
“The internal market supply to the trust pharmacy and A&E departments will need to be externally sourced and paid for but will have no income to offset those on-costs if the unit is closed and of course there is the loss of external income. Where’s the business sense in that?
“GMB members have been able to identify costs savings in an overall PMU footprint reduction within the trust with savings in managerial agency staff and other on-costs together with customer information in regard to increasing order book volumes. However to date the trust and the unit’s management team have ignored everything they have said and seem to want to press on and close it regardless.
“If this unit closes on the short sighted flawed business case its management team has set out as a proposal, then we fear for any other of the few units within the trust fortunate enough to operate a successful revenue resource on behalf of the trust, but at least it will help explain the trust’s so called financial experts yearly deficit announcements.”