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Pay 'cartel' chief warns more trusts could follow suit


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.

Readers' comments (49)

  • tinkerbell

    Really? More trusts are going to follow suit? Who'd have thought?

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  • all out strike then thats whats needed, they carnt run a hospital without staff, if we dont stand up to this attack then thats it were finished

    lets see if chris brown can work a 15 hour shift on an auxilary nurse's pay...sorry he will probably be sipping a cold one with the other chief execs an thier yachts...unbelievable

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  • tinkerbell

    these NHS managers lack any other way of thinking creatively. Once the private sector has finished with them there will also be a few managers out of jobs because the private sector will want managers who are a bit more about them in the old creativity, blue sky thinking department.

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  • tinkerbell

    'who are a bit more about them'

    should read 'who have a bit more about them'

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  • they have failed to take into consideration the number of staff who are leaving because of these proposed paycuts.

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  • The problem is nurses are an easy target! Look how many we're apathetic and didn't vote over the pension changes. We just don't pull together and stand up for ourselves. No wonder the government and chief execs take advantage of us. I was ashamed and disgusted that nurses who were are nearing pension age took the view that it didn't affect them so why bother voting and I can only assume that others thought they were fighting a losing battle so didn't bother to vote either.
    Nurses - if you act like a doormat you'll be treated like one!!

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  • Michelle Ruecroft | 4-Sep-2012 10:50 am

    Spot on Michelle.

    Some of the problem is that we don`t have strong cohesive leadership and while the Unions dither, we are slowly being taken apart.(Maybe the Union leaders need to take some lessons from Bob Crowe ??? i.e don`t be afraid to speak out and stand up to bullying employers?)

    Unfortunately we also have a Government who don`t give a damn about the NHS or the people who work in it.

    Sad really, when you consider the hard work and sacrifices most of us have made along the way.

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  • tinkerbell

    Here, here Polly. Tell it like it will soon to be.

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  • tinkerbell

    Michelle Ruecroft | 4-Sep-2012 10:50 am

    Not all nurses Michelle, i can retire this year but am still fighting for my younger colleagues, who quite frankly don't seem to give a damn in my workplace.

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  • tinkerbell

    it's time to get f**king serious nurses, get the word out there. I have had more than 8 builders rounds here at my house this week, (obviously doing some building work) i told each and every one of them what's going on behind closed doors in the NHS. i bought a new car, i told the used car salesman.,

    I take my cat to the vet, i tell the vet.

    Everyone who comes through my door i tell.

    We need to get the word out on the street, the public are mostly clueless. It's all going on behind closed doors, and those of us working in the NHS are in the know or should be.

    Before being a nurse i am a citizen and i want others to know outside of our profession.

    We should all be marching en masse to parliament to make our voices heard. Posting on here is a closed shop.

    The unions have mostly lost all their clout since they were decimated by thatcher. We have to do this for ourselves rather than waiting around for someone else to do it for us.

    I have never been political until recently, i am making sure that i keep up to speed now though because this affects us all as a society.

    I am going to get together with my colleagues at work soon and ask them for suggestions on what we can do to raise everyones's awareness, leaflets, posters, i don't know, but doing something is better than doing nothing and just allowing this madness to continue.

    Very soon we will all be out of the NHS and out of a job. Remember this bunch of tory spivs have no interest in you, your values, your morals, they don't care. They are programmed to destroy us.

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