Hospital managers across the country are seeking to emulate attempts in the South West to break away from the national Agenda for Change agreement.
The man leading the South West Pay Consortium has told Nursing Times other NHS regions are considering forming their own similar groups.
Chris Bown, chief executive of Poole Hospitals Foundation Trust, is chair of the consortium of 20 trusts, which has been dubbed a “pay cartel” by unions.
In his first in-depth interview since setting up the consortium, he said he had been contacted by hospital managers from “across England” who were investigating taking their own action to reduce staff pay, and terms and conditions.
He said managers were becoming “increasingly frustrated” at the lack of progress in lengthy national negotiations between unions and NHS Employers over proposals to alter Agenda for Change.
As revealed by Nursing Times last month, Unite has become the first union to reject the proposals currently on the table, which were put forward by NHS Employers on behalf of the government.
But Mr Bown claimed his consortium was facing up to “practicalities” and it was increasing likely other regions would take their own action to try and cut the NHS pay bill. He claimed automatic incremental pay rises added £3m to the cost base of an average trust.
“We have to face up to these things,” he said. “Trying to bury your head in the sand and not facing up to the realities just doesn’t get people anywhere.”
“Across England people from other trusts have contacted me to say ‘we will see how it goes with you but we are equally frustrated and we’re thinking about forming our own consortium’,” he said.
Mr Bown insisted there was a need for trusts to save money and warned that widespread job losses could result if something was not done to reduce the NHS pay bill further.
He said: “We can’t continue to maintain the same level of employees with the economic challenges we are all facing. We will need to reduce workforce even further in the NHS if we don’t do something else.”
But unions have reacted with anger at the consortium’s attempt to move away from the national pay framework and have insisted the group is undermining national negotiations.
A petition against the consortium has been signed by more than 20,000 people and a protest was held last week outside North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.
But Mr Bown said: “Employers are increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on the national negotiations which have been going on for almost two years.
“If NHS Employers and unions can achieve a set of terms and conditions with flexibility that enables us to make the changes we need to then of course we would take that very seriously. But our view has always been that we need to continue to work in the background.”
The consortium has drawn up a list of 28 potential ways of reducing staff pay, terms and conditions including:
- Reducing annual leave days
- Additional activity sessions for doctors.
- Reduce on-call payments
- Increase working hours
- End preceptorship rise for new band 5 staff
- Reduce incremental pay rises
- Reduce level of pay increases
- Reduce level of sick pay
- Remove recruitment and retention premia
- Reduce the level of redundancy pay
- Stop short-term sickness payments
- Reduce sick pay for new staff and long term benefits
- Reduce the use of temporary staff
- End unsocial hours payments.