HEALTH chiefs have refused to rule out job cuts for frontline staff at Worcestershire hospitals as the constraints on public spending continue.

John Rostill, chief executive of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, was pressed for assurances that there would not be job cuts at hospitals such as the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester when he faced questions from members of the public.

But Mr Rostill, speaking at a board meeting, was unable to make any promises when he responded to questions.

Mr Rostill said public sector finances were “not good” and referred to a £20 billion bill facing NHS finances nationally in the next five years – 78 per cent of which was spent on staff.

He said some savings would be made through plans to get rid of primary care trusts such as NHS Worcestershire, replacing them with GP consortia who will hold the purse strings for patient care.

Savings will also come from the abolition of strategic health authorities such as NHS West Midlands as part of Government reforms.

He said: “I would be foolish as would of anyone else to categorically confirm that there is no prospect of redundancies in this part of the NHS, in this part of the county in the next few years.”

Mr Rostill was also challenged over the trust’s dependence on expensive locum and agency staff to cover shifts for doctors and nurses by Malcolm Cooper.

The former chairman of the North Worcestershire Health Authority said: “It seems immoral to have agency staff working for you and at the same time you’re considering making permanent staff redundant.”

The trust spent £843,000 on temporary staff in December alone and outlay was more than £1 million in June, July and August of last year.

Spending on these temporary staff – to cover shifts because of staff sickness or because of unfilled vacancies – has fallen since 2009/10 but is still considered too high by the trust.

Harry Turner, chairman of the trust, said no decision had yet been taken on redundancies in the trust.

He said: “We are not at a stage where we are considering redundancies.

"We will have to get to that at some point – but not today.”

• Your Worcester News was the only memeber of the medai to attend the meeting.