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Labour loses vote on NHS regional pay


A Labour Party motion calling on the government to stop the spread of regional pay in the NHS has been defeated in the House of Commons.

Labour, which claimed the NHS was at risk of being fragmented through regional pay, lost the vote by 292 votes to 226.

The debate saw many MPs criticise 20 NHS trusts in the South West, which are seeking to break away from the national Agenda for Change pay framework.

But ministers and Conservative MPs attacked Labour for opportunism and blamed the previous government for giving the freedom to hospitals to negotiate their own local settlements.

During an earlier debate on the South West Consortium, health minister Anna Soubry appeared to give the group her backing, saying she thought the trusts were taking a “sensible and mature” approach to the issues.

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham criticised the government for attacking the “national” in National Health Service and introducing regional pay “by the back door.”

He said: “National pay is part of the glue of a National Health Service, part of what holds it together, and in turn the NHS is part of what holds our country together.

“A one nation service bridging the social and economic divides of our country, uniting east and west, north and south. The N in NHS should be cherished, but instead it is coming under ideological attack,” he said.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt hit back saying: “We are not proposing an end to national collective bargaining, we are not proposing the abolition of national pay scales, current pay scales will not be cut.

“What we are doing is supporting the changes brought in by the last Labour Government to ensure there is sensible flexibility in pay across the whole country.”

Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox described the introduction of regional pay in the NHS as a “retrograde step” but accused the Labour Party of being opportunistic and of trying to “wash his hands” of the decision by Labour to grant freedoms to foundation trusts.

He said Mr Burnham had “opened the door” to what was happening in the NHS.

However, Labour’s Barbara Keeley said there was no reason why a nurse in Salford should be paid differently to one in another part of the country.

Labour’s Jamie Reed MP said Jeremy Hunt’s support for regional pay “revealed today at the dispatch box shows his determination to fragment the NHS”.

He added: “It is barely credible that the government should use the South West as a laboratory to experiment with regional pay.”

Closing the debate junior health minister, Dr Dan Poulter said the government first knew of the South West Consortium when it’s project documents were first leaked in May.

“We did not encourage the consortium in anyway and they have used the freedoms given to them by the previous Labour government.”

He accused Labour of trying to re-write history adding: “It is the government’s stated position to support national pay agreements where they remain fit for purpose.”

Unions are continuing to negotiate with NHS Employers on a national deal to reduce terms and conditions and a draft agreement, previously reported by Nursing Times, has been prepared and could form the basis of a final deal.

A meeting of the NHS Staff Council Executive is set to take place on Friday.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It is encouraging that this issue is being given the attention it deserves by MPs and it shows that many share our concern that regional pay is little more than an attack on the hard work of nurses.

“Punishing our members by reducing the pay of those that live and work in a less affluent area is grossly unfair and will cause a skills drain. The resulting impact on patient care will be severe.

“We applaud the MPs of all parties who are standing with us to oppose this move. It is very clear that the arguments against regional pay are now coming from all sides.”


Readers' comments (18)

  • Tinkerbell

    Clive Peedell?@cpeedell

    Motto of Management Consultants in the #NHS: "If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem"

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  • not all trusts involved have foundation status so how does that work are they acting illegally?

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  • Unfortunately, it was always going to happen. The real test is hartlepoole - if the will of the staff is to say no, and follow it with action, it will stop the trust in its tracks. If the staff capitulate, or even worse, do nothing through apathy, it will trigger a domino effect through the countryas trust by trust we all leave the nhs afc. The break up of the nhs and the privatisation of profit, and nationalisation of the debt is on the top of the list of priorities of the tories. Dick branson and his ilk have donated too much to the tory party to be ignored - he wants a piece of the profiteering from the misfortune of others and he is making significant donations o get his way. This is 'democracy' at work!

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  • Tinkerbell

    just the unions left now then to stop this divide and conquer, best not hold our breaths then eh?

    There isn't an calvalry going to arrive to save our jobs, pay, terms and conditions, we have to do this ourselves by taking industrial action.

    Our unions are only as strong as its members.

    We can all make a difference by not giving up and taking action.

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  • You are absolutely right Tink. Say your prayers and hope that the workforce sees sense.

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  • Tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 7-Nov-2012 10:24 pm

    Let's hope. I always say my prayers regardless:)

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  • this is the beginning of the end. like the article says why should I be paid any less because I work in the SW. My annual salary won't change but I won't get unsocial hours which currently add about 200 quid to my salary which is my mortgage.

    this is a very sad day for nurses and all those who work in the nhs.

    I wish the conservative govt would go, they are awful.

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  • to all you nurses who voted either lib dem or tory....great job you have helped this shower get into govt and destroy our nhs..

    hope you are so proud of yourselves!!!!

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  • It looks that we'll have to stand up for ourselves. Bit tricky when some of our colleagues are so apathetic that: they're not bothered to do anything about securing their pensions, taking things lying down (+/- moaning) and letting others to do their fighting for them (+ may not be in a union).
    If the government had its way, it'll get all nurses to quit. Care delivered by HCAs and supported by millions of volunteers such as those to be trained in dementia care. That would save a few bob.
    Patients will suffer, more people will die quicker. So that will be less for Govt to pay out for benefits, pensions, interventions, etc. Maybe that's the master plan for saving billions.
    The rich may be able to afford 'private' healthcare - which is the healthcare that we all should be getting as the norm, delivered by highly skilled and trained staff, and paid at the proper rates (otherwise there'd be no staff to deliver care for anyone) and not worrying about losing their jobs.
    What good is money when you're ill and there's no one left to look after you properly.
    What planet is Mr Hunt on? by allowing SW cartel + others to break away from AfC, there will be no national pay bargaining for those employees, they wont be on the national pay scale, and pay is cut, due to freezes and increment barriers. Pay is unlikely to increase in any terms (real or otherwise).
    As the government knows, most nurses don't strike as it could harm their patients. However no nurses left, due to being deregisted (not paying for PIN), due to demoralised (overworked, lack support, more errors), quit for greener pastures (better terms + conditions, transferable skills), must surely be worse for patient care.

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  • This is a very bad day indeed. i work in the SW and am not liking the prospect of working future Christmas's bank holidays, nights and weekends (they don't pay us late shift anymore becuase of the shift times) and long nights for the same rate of pay. I have done all I can to oppose this by emailing my MP (fat lot of good that was), petitions, march etc.

    I agree with Andy and Tinkerbell.

    It is time to take one last stand otherwise will be further pay cuts, certainly no rises on the horizon for any of us (well those who remain in what is left of the NHS or nursing)

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