80 children's services staff at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust warned jobs could be at risk (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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80 staff in children's speech, language and occupational therapy department warned jobs could go
THE entire children's speech, language and occupational therapy department at a North-East hospital trust has been given notice that they may be laid off by the end of the year.
The announcement - described as a "real shock" by union officials - was made in a letter from County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to staff.
The Primary Care Trust has served notice on the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust that it intends to "terminate" the Paediatric Occupational Therapy and Paediatric, Speech and Language Therapy Services "with effect from 31st December 2013."
In a letter to union representatives, Sue Glennie, human resources manager for the Foundation Trust, said the PCT plans to "re-procure" speech, language and occupational therapy services for children across County Durham and Darlington,.
The letter added: "The Trust will be proactive in trying to secure the contract for these services via the tendering process. In the meantime, continuity of current services to children, young people and their families will be maintained."
She said the move has implications for around 80 staff working for the service across the trust.
Staff potentially affected include service managers, paediatric occupational therapists, paediatric speech and language therapists, therapy assistants and administrative staff.
Sheila Wilson, regional officer for Unison, said: "It is frightening. We now have 80 people whose future is hanging in the balance."
Mrs Wilson added: "This is just the start. We are worried what might happen after April when the new clinical commissioning groups take over."
A spokesman for the Foundation Trust said: "This is a vital service for many families, and our staff work hard to see children as quickly as possible and provide good quality care that meets their needs.
We plan to tender for the service as part of this process, and hope to keep it within the NHS Trust."
A spokesperson for NHS County Durham and Darlington said: "Following a review of children's therapies by NHS County Durham and Darlington, it was identified that some services were not meeting local needs."
The aim of the procurement process is to ensure " improved access, improved quality, consistency of delivery and better value for money."