A foundation trust that had proposed freezing increases in nurses’ pay has backed down on the plan.
Nursing Times reported in March that Luton and Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust had predicted £1.5m could be saved by freezing incremental pay rises for staff. It projected a further £1.4m of savings from decreasing annual leave for staff and treating a bank holiday as a working day.
The plans threatened to move away from the nationally agreed Agenda for Change deal under which which nurses’ pay rises in increments to reflect experience.
But the trust has backed down in the face of opposition from unions, including Unison which said the Adenda for Change agreement should not be watered down.
A progress report on the hospital’s quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) plan, released to Nursing Times under the freedom of information act, said it had realised some issues could not be “negotiated in isolation”. It said: “We now have less confidence that incremental and threshold freezes will be accepted by the main unions nationally.”
It said the reversal posed “a significant threat” to the trust’s plan to save £2m from workforce reforms. The trust’s QIPP team have now “redirected some of their energies to focus on understanding and controlling the medical and nursing agency spend which is on track to exceed £7m for 2010-11”, it said.
A spokesman for the trust said it had been able to make the savings elsewhere and was on target to meet its savings targets.
The change of heart came before the Royal College of Nursing Congress voted in April in favour of a ballot on industrial action if the national pay agreement is challenged.
Foundation Trust Network director Sue Slipman told Nursing Times with trusts having to make large savings, workforce reforms “have to be an option”.
She said: “The less flexible the pay bill is the more that will impact on jobs. Not restricting the pay bill – which accounts for around 60 per cent of trust’s budgets – will only lead to job losses later on.
“Everybody faces the QIPP challenge to do more with less, this is not a management problem, this is a problem for everybody.”
The trust’s spokesman said staff had been willing to negotiate, but a local Unison representative said the union was not willing to move away from Agenda for Change.