A HOSPITAL trust has announced it is closing two day nurseries, with the loss of 54 jobs.

Staff who work at the day nurseries at the University Hospitals of North Tees and Hartlepool have been told that they will be made redundant on December 31.

Trust officials said the decision had been made following a comprehensive review of the service which has become uneconomic to run.

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However, the move was strongly criticised by the Unison union, which represents many of the staff.

Mark Edmundson, area organiser for Unison, urged the trust to rethink the closure and pointed out that similar day nurseries were flourishing at other major hospitals in the region.

Fifty-four full and part time staff are affected. A staff consultation has begun and the trust is in the process of contacting parents to inform them of the closure and enable them to make alternative childcare arrangements.

Trust chief executive Alan Foster said: “It’s vital to stress that this decision is not in any way a reflection of the quality of our nursery staff who provide an excellent service. However in these difficult times we cannot continue to offer a service which spends more than it brings in and therefore has to be subsidised with support from frontline healthcare budgets.”

Staff affected by the closures range from managers to nursery nurses and administrative staff.

Most work at the Stockton site which can take up to 120 children. The Hartlepool site has provision for up to 58 youngsters.

Mr Edmundson, said, “This will have a devastating impact on employees, the local community and staff.

"At a time when the government talks about getting single parents into work, the closure of the day nurseries will make it impossible for ordinary working people to balance their work and family commitments. the Trust must rethink this decision and consider other business models to continue providing this vital service to working people.”.

Clare Williams, Unison’s regional convenor, said “These nurseries provide an invaluable public service to both Trust staff and the local community in North Stockton. This proposed closure will mean job losses for Unison members, disruption for children and their parents and added travel time and expense as they search for new daycare arrangements.”

She said staff had already suffered pay freezes and a derisory pay offer in 2014.