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Regional pay 'cartel' claims it can save 6,000 jobs


More than 6,000 NHS “jobs” in the South West could be saved if major changes go ahead to staff pay, and terms and conditions, it has been claimed.

The controversial South West Consortium of NHS trusts has published two “discussion” documents exploring the challenges it claims the NHS is facing and why action needs to be taken to address them.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, the consortium – described as a “cartel” by unions – is considering breaking away from the national Agenda for Change framework.

The new documents are a clear move by the consortium to try and build a case for drawing up its own regional version of the pay framework, although it has stressed no decisions have yet been made.

Dorset Healthcare Foundation Trust has become the latest organisation to pay a £10,000 membership fee to join the group, taking the total number of NHS trusts involved to 20. Together, they employ around 68,000 NHS staff across the South West.

Within the documents, the consortium claims a more “fit for purpose” system of pay and terms and conditions could safeguard more than 6,000 jobs in the region.

Some of the potential ways the consortium believes it could save money include reducing annual leave, changing consultant on-call supplements, adding extra working hours, reducing incremental pay, and reducing sick pay benefits.

The changes would be applied not just to staff on Agenda for Change but also to all grades of doctors, board directors, very senior managers, bank and agency staff and interim workers.

One of the documents states: “The alternative to addressing pay, terms and conditions is a wholesale reduction in headcount which, in potentially compromising minimum staffing levels and therefore patient safety, is extremely undesirable and costly.”

A full business case for the changes, which will also contain a series of recommendations, will be presented to each of the group’s trusts for discussion by their borads later this year.

The consortium has said it remains committed to national negotiations on changes to Agenda for Change. Unions, however, have accused the 20 trusts in the consortium of undermining those talks.

Christina McAnea, chair of the NHS staff-side council and Unison’s head of health, said: “This organisation has no status, or authority to enter into negotiations, and the trades unions will not be engaging with any proposals made by the cartel to cut pay, terms and conditions of our members.”

She warned the changes being mooted could harm, rather than help, the NHS in the South West, and also criticised the money trusts were spending on setting up the consortium.

“It beggars belief that at a time of financial constraint across the NHS, 20 trusts have ploughed £200,000 into a scheme whose only outcome will be to penalise hard-working staff,” she said. “This short term fix designed to address cost pressures is a negative move for employers, staff and patients.”

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Chris Bown, who is chair of the consortium, said: “Consortium trusts are fully supportive of the national negotiations between employer representatives and unions.

“We believe we can and should work in the background as these discussions continue to give us the best opportunity to be sustainable organisations in the years ahead.”

But a Department of Health spokesman strongly hinted the cartel had come about because unions were dragging their heels in negotiations, saying that some NHS trusts were “frustrated” a national deal had not been reached on Agenda for Change proposals over the past 18 months.

“The need for local negotiations could be significantly reduced if the NHS staff council were able to bring national negotiations to a swift and successful conclusion,” he said.


Readers' comments (46)

  • Totally demoralising. I already work many hours above my 37.5 per week for nothing, all this does is formalise it!!

    The bottom line is that the NHS pays people a set amount for a set of skills to be deployed over an agreed period of time. In addition, there are additional employee rights with regards to sick pay and annual leave etc.

    If the NHS wants to reduce pay, increments, unsocial hours, sick pay and annual leave, then that is of course it's perogative. However, in making the choice to do so, it is completely changing the terms and conditions of the contract between the employer and the employee, which requires negotiation as both parties must sign up to this. If it is enforced, then as the other holder of the contract, then we surely have the right to redefine what the NHS gets for what it is prepared to pay.

    For me, this would mean a complete end to all flexibility and unpaid hours ever. Let's see how that impacts on the sustainability if we all did this. (e.g.: I have had weeks when I have done well over 50 hours and some where it has been over 70 - although those extreme weeks are very rare).

    I'd like to see the employer try to challenge such action legally, I don't think they would have a leg to stand on.

    So if it happens and we are not able to stop it, it doesn't mean we have to be completely helpless and we can fight back without contravening our formal contracts. If it's a fight they want, they can have it.

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  • i have said to my colleagues for a long while that trusts would attack things like reducing annual leave. they laugh at me. what will happen to these trusts who do all these reductions when all the staff leave. who will care for patients then. they are hoping that our 'vocation' will kick in and nurses will put up with it. they obviously dont work on the shop floor then do they. watch this space is all i say.

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  • Disgusting. I am a nurse who is looking to leave the NHS as soon as possible. The government have a choice how they choose to spend money; for example they chose to CUT the 50% tax rate for the richest people in the country: they are giving millions to athletes for the next olympics these are just two examples. Nurses are poorly paid compared to other professions to want to cut our pay is disgusting. NO TO REDUCED WAGES: I HAVE TO LIVE.

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  • THIS IS DISGUSTING. The government have a choice over the budget and where they spend money. For example: they gave the richest people a 5% tax cut reducing the 50 % rate to 45%, they have announced millions to be given to athletes for the next olympics. These are just two examples (Getting their Priorities Right!). I am going to leave the NHS as soon as possible: THIS IS A DISGUSTING WAY TO TREAT STAFF. NO TO A PAY CUT.

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  • tinkerbell

    Unfortunately i think it is part of their ploy to get us to leave and then they can start again with lower paid workers. I hope i am wrong of course.

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  • I've said it before and Ill say it again watch out for the biggest brain drain ever in the NHS, all the good staff will leave if this is allowed to go ahead. At our Trust (one of the cartel) good consultants and nurses are already going, I nurse there and Hubby is a Consultant, we are looking abroad, and many of his colleagues are doing the same.

    I know the Unions are talking the talk but it's time for less talking and more action. But members MUST back their unions, I voted for industrial action in the last ballot but seems I was one of a few.

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  • the new tory nhs runs on and on!!

    just think how many boats the CE's of these trusts will be able to buy with the savings!!

    so 6000 jobs eh..mmm
    are these posts no longer needed, seems a lot..or is it just crap there talking

    the staff need to strike and let these idiots know they carnt survive without them..THE WORKERS

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  • tinkerbell | 24-Aug-2012 12:16 pm

    one of the proposed future nursing models was more HCAs for basic care and nurses who will be university graduate qualified staff on the wards in supervisory, administrative and specialist roles. this could be the aim.

    if HCAs underwent standardised training and regulation which was sufficient to maintain standards of basic care and nurses concentrated on more specialist skills and managing the ward maybe this would be a more cost effective strategy in some areas although highly debatable. there may be little choice.

    It seems currently as though all the changes are taking place willy nilly to the detriment of patient safety and care as well as seriously impacting on the well being of staff and their future in the professional labour market, instead of following some form of coherent planning. this is totally unacceptable.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 24-Aug-2012 1:33 pm

    this was also the thought i had but am starting to wonder if i am getting paranoid about this so called government or am i just be realistic cos' their track record so far isn't very good is it?

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  • Sin to Heal Me ?

    Anonymous | 24-Aug-2012 1:33 pm

    'It seems currently as though all the changes are taking place willy nilly to the detriment of patient safety and care as well as seriously impacting on the well being of staff and their future in the professional labour market, instead of following some form of coherent planning. this is totally unacceptable.'

    That seems to be the problem with 'change' - it isn't quite 'willy nilly', but people pull out just the bits that fit in with their own objectives and existing beliefs, destroy any sort of overall coherence that existed in the original 'vision', and downgrade or ignore any requirements they find inconvenient or difficult.

    And many of these plans for change, are based on extending some evidence obtained in one set of circumstances, to quite different situations.

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