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Fears over Scottish NHS staff cuts

Cuts of almost 4,000 NHS staff in Scotland could hit patient care as doctors and nurses become overworked, a health union has said.

The scale of the cuts is expected to put further pressure on staff, where the length of working hours is already a cause for some concern.

Increasing their workload is likely to demoralise staff, increase the number of mistakes made, cause greater rates of staff illness and may even see trained nurses leaving the profession.

The country's two biggest health boards will bear the brunt of more than half of the 3,800 jobs cuts in the NHS this year.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will lose 1,252 staff in 2010/11, according to NHS workforce projections.

The cuts include axing 553 nurse and midwife posts. The health board employs 34,400 people. NHS Lothian is to axe 734 of its 19,600-strong workforce, with 333 nurses to go.

NHS Grampian is losing 577 staff, including 188 nurses, and NHS Tayside will lose 495 staff.

Tam Waterson, Chair of Unison Scotland's health committee, said: "It is clear that we face deep cuts which will impact on our vital health services."

The government said compulsory redundancies are not on the table, and that the cuts will come through not replacing people who retire or leave.

Registered nurses are also being replaced with unregistered nursing assistants to save money, the Royal College of Nursing said, and specialist nurses will have to carry out regular ward shifts in order to cover staff shortages.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "The reality is that NHS budgets are tight and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It is my job to ensure the NHS delivers the best quality of care, manages the financial challenges facing it and takes the right decisions now to secure services in the future."

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Unison Scotland