SLASHING jobs across south Essex hospitals could hit patient safety at a time when “most wards are already under-staffed”, it has been claimed.

Campaign group Save Southend NHS spoke out after it was revealed that 600 posts at the Mid and South Essex Trust would be cut to tackle its £100million financial deficit.

The move, which is believed to have been put forward by NHS England, has been branded as putting “cost cutting above safety”.

A spokesman for Save Southend NHS, which has almost 1,000 members, said: “The loss of this number of staff will have impact on patient clinical care and safety, at a time when most wards and departments are working at less than full staff already.

“This has already been shown to be a factor in patient safety incidents with recent incidents stating that lack of staff has been a factor.”

The spokesman claimed there was, in effect, a recruitment freeze in place, adding: “All departments are not allowed to recruit to any posts at present without completing more paperwork and process and presenting to an executive committee who will decide if they can recruit.

“This even includes replacement posts and already vacant posts let alone any for expansion to clear the backlogs.

“In addition some departments have been told they can interview applicants but then are not given the go ahead to recruit successful candidates - until six weeks later in some cases - by which time any candidates have understandably been recruited at other hospitals. This is cost-cutting above patient safety.”

Tricia Cowdrey, Independent candidate for Shoebury, fears “essential personnel” could be lost, adding: “The trust has created new roles in response to demand over recent years. This demand only increases but we are potentially looking at a loss of essential personnel across the trust.

“I am concerned about the impact of this announcement on our wonderful NHS staff but also on our residents, many of whom have been waiting months for treatment.”

Tricia Cowdrey is standing for the Shoebury ward. The other candidates are Kayleigh Burgess (Confelicity), Judith McMahon (Con), Fiona Clapperton (Green), Kevin Ryan (Lab), and Chris Bailey (Lib Dem).