HEALTH unions are considering industrial action over plans to cut 500 jobs and down-band 1,685 employees at the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

Unions have stressed a strike is the “last thing” they want but said they will take action if that is what is needed to save staff and services.

A consultation is currently under way at the hospital over plans to cut 500 positions, including frontline jobs.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust have said they can not rule out compulsory redundancies.

Some staff may also be made to re-apply for their jobs at a lower band on “revised terms and conditions”, which could mean changes in hours and responsibility and could cost them thousands of pounds The consultation will end at the start of March, when staff will find out if they are losing their jobs or if they will be down-banded.

Discussions are ongoing with departments about how the changes will affect them.

The Trust, which needs to save £50 million in the next three years, is more than £12 million in debt and is being monitored by health watchdog Monitor for financial failings.

Staff Side, which represents employees at the Trust, has held meetings with workers and said there has been support amongst staff for strike action.

Union members have not yet been balloted for strike action, but it is not being ruled out.

Harry Hanley, secretary of Staff Side at the Trust, said: “Industrial action is the last thing that we want but if we have got to take industrial action to save our staff and services then that is what we will do.”

Heather Edwards, head of communications at the Trust, said they had not been given any indication of any intention to take industrial action.