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Staff at only trust outside Agenda for Change to join national contract

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Nurses and other staff at the only NHS trust in the UK still outside Agenda for Change are finally to be moved over to the national agreement for pay, terms and conditions.

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which has operated outside Agenda for Change for more than a decade, said it hoped the move will help it attract and retain staff.

“We are confident this move will help us to attract and retain more staff”

Louisa Cowell

Last year, the trust agreed to mirror national NHS pay rates and, following consultation with unions, has now agreed to move over fully at the start of the next financial year in April.

As a result, it will be signing up to the three-year pay deal that was agreed last June by the government, employers and unions, and subsequently backed by members.

Agenda for Change was first introduced in 2004 with the aim of standardising NHS pay and conditions across the country.

However, two years later, staff at Southend voted to return to locally negotiated terms and conditions, making it the only trust outside Agenda for Change.

“This is great news for staff in Southend, and indeed the NHS as a whole”

Sara Gorton

Although an unpopular state of affairs with health unions, the trust rarely deviated far from the pay levels and conditions negotiated at national level for the rest of the health service.

Louisa Cowell, director of finance at Southend University Hospital, said: “We are currently in the planning process for 2019-20 and this additional cost is being factored into our calculations.

“We are confident this move will help us to attract and retain more staff to Southend Hospital,” she added.

The trust is also part of a proposed merger with neighbouring organisations Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust.

The three trusts approved the move this time last year and published plans in May. They are already run by a joint executive group, including chief nurse Diane Sarkar.

The Southend trust currently has a Care Quality Commission rating of “requires improvement”.

Health workers at the trust belonging to Unison voted on the changes, with 88% backing the move, which takes effect on 1 April 2019.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “This is great news for staff in Southend, and indeed the NHS as a whole.

“Now a nurse, healthcare assistant or porter in Southend, Sunderland or Solihull will be paid the same rate for doing the same job,” said Ms Gorton.

She added: “Unison will work with the trust to support staff and make sure any changes go as smoothly as possible.”

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