By Claire West

Up to 600 jobs will be axed at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in a bid to save £60 million over the next three years, it has been announced.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital Trust said front-line staff would not be affected by the losses, and that it hoped to achieve the cuts through natural wastage and retirement.

But it confirmed that jobs will mainly be lost in human resources, IT, facilities and back-office functions, with 200 posts under immediate threat.

The trust currently employs 4,500 staff at the Reading hospital and a Windsor eye clinic, and provides some services at a hospital in Newbury. The Royal Berkshire Hospital is Reading’s biggest employer.

Although NHS funding was ring-fenced in the coalition’s emergency budget in June, the trust’s chief medical officer, Jonathan Fielden, explained that the hospital still needed to find a planned £60 million in savings over the next three years.

Fielden said: “Everyone is now well aware that we are working to achieve our aim in a challenging financial situation that is facing the whole country and in particular the public sector. This year we have to identify and deliver a savings plan of £20 million (around 6.5 per cent of our total budget), and over three years we need to save a total of £60 million.”

“One of the areas the trust needs to look at is our workforce cost, which is the largest fixed cost, at over 60 per cent of turnover,” he continued.

“This year we will need to remove 200 posts, while protecting front-line delivery of quality patient care. We also anticipate that further consultations will take place in the coming years, with about 500-600 posts in total removed over the next three years.”

Unions have hit out at the planned cuts, with the Independent Democratic Union (IDU) claiming that achieving the savings without affecting front-line staff was a “myth”.

IDU’s Alistair Maclean added: “These cuts are far too severe and far too immediate. It is clear that this announcement is a result of swingeing cuts that have been made in the health service and is going to have a devastating impact on health service in Berkshire.”

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