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‘Unfathomable’ cuts to North East London’s NHS staffing budget expected

The staffing budget for NHS North East London responsible for health services at Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital is expected to be cut by 30% in real terms by 2025.

North East London’s NHS is bracing itself for “unfathomable” cuts to its staffing budget over the next two years.

The seven boroughs of North East London and the City of London have a combined total of 756 NHS staff, looking after more than two million residents.

The annual staffing budget for NHS North East London (NHS NEL), the body that oversees the area, is currently £38 million.

However, last month the government warned that this budget would be slashed by 30% in “real terms” by the 2025/26 financial year.

At a board meeting last month, chair of NHS NEL Marie Gabriel said staff are “understandably concerned” about potential job losses but promised the board is committed to being “transparent, inclusive and supportive”.

A letter sent by NHS England’s chief officers in March insisted the cuts would be “significant but deliverable” and would ensure NHS NEL is at its “optimal size”.

North East London contains some of the most deprived areas in London, where residents have fewer GPs than the national average and hospitals with some of the country’s longest A&E wait times.

More than half of NHS NEL’s staff budget – £22.8m – is spent on finance, performance and “strategy and transformation”.

Phil Edwards, joint secretary of campaign group Save Our NHS North East London, said news of the cuts was an “unfathomable” shock.

He said: “It says in the letter from NHS England that money [saved by cutting costs] may well be directed into primary care but that is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“If they’re cutting running costs, one wonders what impact that’s going to have on the procurement process for GP services and all the things [NHS NEL] is responsible for.

“How are they going to carry out these responsibilities with a massive reduction which will have a massive impact on staff?

“This is quite dangerous… we’re facing the biggest crisis of GP provision we’ve ever faced.”

Neither NHS England nor the Department of Health and Social Care have responded to requests for comment from the LDRS.

However, Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal said he is “extremely concerned” about such a “massive funding reduction”.

He added: “[Our local NHS partners] have done a fantastic job supporting services to operate safely and effectively for local people across Redbridge through the pressures of winter and the height of the pandemic

“Yet, they now face significant reductions in the coming years.”

A spokesperson for Havering Council said it is “disappointed” by the announcement.

They added: “The partnership across North East London between the [NHS NEL] and local government is now really starting to take shape, with borough partnerships at a local level representing real opportunities to develop more integrated approaches to how we serve our residents.

“That NHS England requires such draconian cuts to the ICB and therefore borough partnership ambitions is hugely challenging.”

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