HOSPITAL bosses have been accused of using “cloak and dagger” tactics and keeping staff “in the dark” over a “voluntary severance scheme”.

The Save Southend NHS campaign group has slammed the “secrecy” of senior management at the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust after Unison claimed hospital bosses “want to let 150 staff go”.

The Mid and South Essex NHS Trust has insisted the severance scheme is “purely voluntary” and will help it “redesign teams” and use “resources efficiently”.

A spokesman from Save Southend NHS campaign group said: “As per usual, there is a complete lack of transparency regarding information shared from the mid and south Essex group regarding finances, job cuts and future plans for Southend Hospital.

“A nurse from Southend Hospital has this morning raised these concerns to our campaign, further confirming our fears that cloak and dagger operations are ongoing with staff kept in the dark who are met with inadequate responses from senior management.”

In April, it was revealed that 600 “whole time equivalent posts” would be slashed and only vacancies where there is an “immediate urgency” would be filled.

At the time it was understood that many of the 600 jobs are long-term vacancies, however these posts may be covered by agency or bank staff.

Unison has claimed the trust was unable to confirm how the alleged 150 job losses relate to the announcement in April.

According to Unison, the “trust is proposing a mutually agreed resignation scheme, a form of voluntary severance, designed to enable employees, in agreement with their employer, to choose to leave their employment voluntarily in return for a severance payment”.

The trust has struggled with staff shortages and has a predicted £102million deficit –added to by a heavy reliance on expensive agency staff.

A trust spokesman said: “This scheme will offer us an opportunity to redesign teams and is part of our work to right-size our workforce, using our resources efficiently and making sure we have the right people in the right roles. This is purely a voluntary scheme.”