THE Royal Bolton Hospital is losing a switchboard operator and introducing a new phone system in a bid to save money.

The change is part of the Turnaround programme at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which needs to save £50 million in three years and is currently more than £12 million in debt.

One job will go at the hospital, making an annual saving of £19,060.

The Trust is currently consulting about 500 possible job losses.

The new system will mean callers can be put through directly to a ward or department without having to go through a switchboard operator.

When people call the main hospital number on 01204 390390, an automated message will ask them for the extension they require and then put them straight through.

People will still be able to speak to an operator if they do not know the number of the department they want.

Staff are currently being consulted to see if the job can be lost without resorting to compulsory redundancy.

The hospital believe the new system will save money and be more effective.

Stephen Tyldesley, associate director of estates and facilities, said the system was already being used successfully by a number of hospitals.

He added: “The new system will save time to callers who will not need to go through the operator and also reduce the number of calls going through the switchboard, speeding up processes.”

The hospital is asking callers to check their correspondence and either use the direct dial number or the extension number provided.

The new service will be monitored on an ongoing basis to check response times and line availability, and to listen to comments from staff and the public.

Harry Hanley, secretary of Staff Side at the hospital, said: “If the money saved was being put back into the Trust to be reinvested and made better for the patients then this would be a good thing but it is not. It is paying government cuts and is going into a big black hole.”