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GPs left in limbo as PCTs shed staff and pay millions in redundancy costs

Exclusive: PCTs have seen a mass exodus of staff almost two years before the transition to GP commissioning, with some already shedding up to a third of their workforce, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Figures from 54 PCTs obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show they have each shelled out an average of £585,000 in redundancy and voluntary resignation costs – meaning the bill across England is likely to be more than £88m so far.

LMC leaders warned the shortage of staff was severely hampering PCTs' efforts to properly equip GP commissioners with the skills and knowledge required before they assume full budgetary responsibility from 2013.

Thousands of staff have taken redundancy or left through the mutually agreed resignation scheme (MARS), and thousands more posts at PCTs are vacant as trusts struggle to hang onto staff who are seeking employment elsewhere. The combination means some trusts are operating on a skeleton staff.

NHS Liverpool is 34% below last July's full capacity, with four redundancies and 31 voluntary resignations in the past year, and 168 unfilled posts. NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale, NHS Doncaster and NHS East Lancashire are all 24% below capacity, while on average trusts are 11% below their capacity last July.

Overall, 1,017 staff were made redundant across the 54 trusts that provided figures, while 256 staff were let go through MARS schemes. There was a total of 737 unfilled posts across PCTs. More than half of trusts did not provide figures on staff leaving through MARS, meaning the true number is likely to be far higher.

Dr Mohammed Jiva, secretary of Rochdale and Bury LMC, said it was ‘understandable' that PCT managers were looking for alternative employment, but added: ‘Considering we are 20 months or so away, we are left in limbo really. It's very difficult to make progress when we don't have the infrastructure to make it happen.'

Dr Pauline Brimblecombe, a GP in Cambridge, said: ‘I'm concerned about losing key members of PCT staff and their skills, knowledge and experience. I suspect the best staff will be being headhunted by private firms, and that would be a disaster as we'll end up paying more for the expert advice we currently get within the NHS.'