ANGRY nurses in Hereford hospitals are threatening a rally in High Town to protest about the allocation of their jobs in the new hospital.

Around 70 members of the Royal College of Nursing attended a meeting where they agreed not to let the issue drop and to make their voices heard.

The row between the nurses and Hereford Hospitals Trust centres round the number of jobs available for E grade nurses in the new hospital.

It is understood that 19, out of several hundred at this level, have been told their jobs are at risk.

The nurses involved have been offered jobs at the lower grade of D and the hospital trust says these staff will remain on a protected salary at E grade for between two and 13 years, according to individual contracts.

"The arrangement seeks to avoid their having to be made redundant while suitable, alternative employment is found in the Trust. We have made provision to assist these staff in retraining if desired. We are optimistic that in the nine months to the opening of the new hospital, we will be able to offer appropriate employment to those staff currently displaced,'' said a statement from the Trust.

But the nurses involved say that while money was an issue for most of them the blow to self esteem and the way it was done was their main concern.

In an unsigned statement sent to The Hereford Times it was claimed that the ratio of trained nurses to patients on any one shift was to be reduced. It described the new figures as nonsense such staff levels making the wards unsafe.

Recruit and retain

"Most hospitals wish to recruit and retain in order to make their wards safe and to provide decent consistent care - Hereford seems to be governed by the accountant's bottom line - is this what PFI really means. Is the priority no longer patient care but paying off the enormous debt of the PFI legacy?'' said the statement.

In response the Trust said that in view of the level of 'propaganda and misinformation' being circulated it wished to reassure the public that it was able to provide a safe level of service, a position which managers would not allow to be compromised. The amalgamation of three hospitals to one site was a major logistical challenge and at times priorities did conflict. For the majority of staff the change would be one of location only.

The Trust confirmed that it held routine monthly meetings with staff representatives and from the inception of the scheme had used the mechanism to keep staff informed of progress. Details of the staffing arrangements had been shared with staff representatives at every stage and they had been invited to observe the job allocation process.

A planned meeting between the Trust and regional officers of trade unions will take place this week.