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Minister calls regional pay cartel 'heavy handed'

Health minister Dan Poulter has signaled a shift in the government’s stance on the controversial South West Consortium during a debate in the Commons.

Dr Poulter criticised the 19 trusts involved in the consortium for their “heavy handed” approach. He also suggested that, should a national deal on Agenda for Change be agreed, the consortium should get behind it.

The group of 19 trusts is seeking to break with the national Agenda for Change framework in a bid to significantly reduce terms and conditions and save millions of pounds from the South West region’s paybill.

But last month unions and NHS Employers agreed draft proposals which, if adopted, would see a number of reductions in terms and conditions for many NHS staff. Unions are currently planning consultations on the proposals with members before any final decision to accept them is made.

The draft proposals prompted one member of the consortium, the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals Foundation Trust, to pull out of the group.

Speaking during health questions in parliament on Tuesday, Dr Poulter was asked by John Pugh, Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, whether the recent progress in national talks made the efforts of the consortium “disruptive and pointless”.

In reply, the minister said: “We have had encouraging results from national pay negotiations at the recent NHS Staff Council, and unions are to consult their members on those results.

“There is general agreement that we need to maintain national pay frameworks, provided they are fit for purpose.

“I hope… the South West pay consortium, which has been somewhat heavy-handed in the way that it has conducted its affairs, also sees the benefit of maintaining national pay frameworks. That is why we would like to see a quick resolution of the matter at a national level.”

However, the minister re-iterated that the government was unable to intervene to stop the consortium because of the freedoms given to foundation trusts by the previous government.

He added: “If national terms and conditions are agreed to, I am sure they will be endorsed at a regional level by the South West consortium.”

Chris Bown, chief executive of Poole Hospital Foundation Trust and chair of the South West Consortium steering group, told Nursing Times the consortium was continuing with its plans at present.

He said a business case and detailed plans to reduce terms and conditions would be completed before the end of the year and considered by member trusts in early 2013.

He added: “We welcome the progress made on aspects of Agenda for Change and look forward to the outcome of trade union consultations.

“Once known, it will be for individual trust boards to form a view on the impact this progress will have on their organisations, whether that is here in the south west or elsewhere.”

Readers' comments (10)

  • tinkerbell

    more like 'mob handed'.

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  • Just what are the unions giving away and what is the reasoning? Is Dr Poulter a health minister or just an interested party on the sidelines! "because of the freedoms given to foundation trusts by the previous government." What dishonesty - does he agree with the freedoms or not. The answer is the former as all provider trust have to be FT's by 2014 you know like Mid Staffs.

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  • I find this highly amusing. Bournemouth is having to 'merge' with Poole due to the latters poor financial state. Chris Brown has not been appointed to the CE job, that went to Tony Spotswood from Bournemouth. Furthermore, none of the Poole directors got offered a position on the 'merged' trusts board.

    It will also be quite interesting to see what happens when they do merge. One trust but two different pay scales, one CE who pulled out, one ex CE who leads the consortium.

    The result should be as much fun as watching a barrel full of monkeys organise a drinking session in a brewery.

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  • Yes But

    Anonymous | 29-Nov-2012 1:17 pm

    'The result should be as much fun as watching a barrel full of monkeys organise a drinking session in a brewery.'

    Without going into specifics of this particular case, but thinking of the organisational competence of the NHS in more general terms, I think you have been rather too critical of the co-operative skills of monkeys ?

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  • If Dr Poulter thinks the south west consortium has been heavy handed, why doesn't he get them stopped in their tracks?

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 30-Nov-2012 8:24 pm

    think it's called 'runnng with the foxes and hunting with the hounds'.

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  • Oh yes, I should have realised that! I'm not cynical enough yet!

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 1-Dec-2012 10:49 am

    these things take time:)

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  • Firstly, saying the SOuth-West Cartel has only been "heavy handed" is a massive understatement....I would say they have tried to bully and intimidate, not to mention attempting to put every single patient of their Trust's in danger by deliberately trying to reduce staff to beyond safe levels. Why don't the Cartel just come out and tell the truth instead of their "look forward to the outcome of trade union consultations.". Let's face it...the only way to get them to back down is if the National Pay Scale is reduced by about 20% across the board...combined with zero sick pay, zero holidays, zero shift enhancements. Why don't they just admit they want to take NHS employees back to the days when pay was just about liveable on. Why don't they just admit that that they do not give a damn about the patients and don't care how many lives are lost in the reckless, irresponsible and reprehensible pursuit of savings?
    And why is anyone even surprised or considering this news? After all, this is what the Government want. They may "publicly" say it's wrong but, privately, they will be delighted as it pushes the NHS one step closer to abolishment and becoming a pure private entity.
    I don't know what's worse: A Regional Mafia (well, that's what they are...a group of people intent on bullying and intimidating people) who, whilst clearly pathetic and sad, at least are upfront with what they are doing? Or a Government who keep trotting out these PR Lines in public in an attempt to cover the fact that they are delighted at how things are progressing towards their Private Healthcare System...and the millions that they will surely earn from private companies for helping facilitate it. It makes me ashamed to even admit that I am English. But, I guess by privatising the NHS, it may help kick-start the economy by feeding the Private Sector.

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  • tinkerbell

    nursemorph | 2-Dec-2012 1:13 pm

    totally agree, but if they were honest about their intentions then no ordinary person would ever vote for them again. You would have to be incredibly rich or stupid to get back on this merciless merrygoround if you are just a commoner. Either way doesn't seem to matter anymore cos' it's a done deal and we're all just gonna have to suck it up the .......................!

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