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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)

  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 24-Aug-2012 1:33 pm

    tinkerbell | 24-Aug-2012 12:16 pm

    that comment above was made by anonymous in reply to a comment i made.

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  • The change in our pay in the South West is already happening without any consultation with staff!!

    From June 2011, we have returned to being paid Working Time Directive, (WTD). This is paid each month as a percentage of our special duties to "cover our annual leave pay". This was how it was done before Agenda for Change altered it in 2006 when it was realised staff were working their holiday entitlement because they found their pay very much reduced in the month following their annual leave.

    For those working internal rotation, their pay is now almost impossible to calculate accurately, as the new method is so complicated for both Nursing and admin staff. However, many state they feel their pay is less, particulary when returning from sick leave, annual leave etc.

    For those on permanent night contracts, working the same amount of hours per month, and comparing their P60's for 2011 and 2012 have realised they have been underpaid around £1000 compared with the year before!

    If you think you may be affected, check your payslips/P60's and contact your Union.

    Together, we can fight back!!

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  • tinkerbell

    'For those on permanent night contracts, working the same amount of hours per month, and comparing their P60's for 2011 and 2012 have realised they have been underpaid around £1000 compared with the year before!'Anonymous | 28-Aug-2012 5:05 pm

    Scandalous! How underhand, how low are they prepared to go?

    Were they hoping no one would notice?

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  • Thank you Tiinkerbell,

    Those who have noticed a drop in their wages are afraid to say anything in case they are penalised. They feel if they speak up, their jobs may be put at risk, having had it been applied they are 'lucky to have a job'.

    Where are our Unions when we need them? We all need support at this time because this will not stop at the South West. It will affect all of us as Nurses soon.

    The Unions are aware of the deficit in our wages and are doing nothing about it.

    Come on RCN! Whose side are you on? We need the support we're paying for annually.

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  • tinkerbell

    Yes, anyone thinking 'i'm alright jack' are in for a pretty rude awakening a bit further down the line. This is going to affect us ALL.

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  • Has anybody else noticed that while we are on this page talking about the threat to front line nurses; pay and conditions and ability to deliver quality care, the next article under this one is about the post of director or nursing for quality improvement and care on the NHS board for a measly £125,000 reward - nice to know that the pain is evenly spread throughout the ranks.

    Well done NT - was this intentional?

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  • This is definitely emotional blackmail. Work harder for less or you will be responsible for job losses. how stupid do they think we are?

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  • has anyone considered the legalities of what this cartel are undertaking? surely they signed up to agenda for change! doesnt that mean that they are Legally tied into it. and can it be proved that what they are doing is illegal in this respect. didnt they sign a legally binding document as far as Im aware I have a contract with my employer and have agreed to the terms and conditions within it when I signed it. So as they have signed up to Agenda for change, then doesnt that make it a legally binding document or not?

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  • As one correspondent put it-we might all be working for nothing if we were in Greece for example!!! But thasts by the by.

    The trouble here is that as usual nurses will lay down again and say "carry on walking all over me" as they always do.

    No government can ignore a national 100% nusses strike which would immediately give them everything they want. Unfortunately, all nurses ever want to do is debate the issue-as long as nurses cosistently put patient welfare above their own they will always come off second best with pay and conditions as is currently the case where a pay cut has been effectively taken for the last four years.
    Nurses cant have it both ways-if the patient welfare is more important stop moaning or even debating the issue. On the other hand if as a worker you dont want to be abused any more then be 100% solid and committed to withdrawing ALL services simultaneously and nationally. The outcome lies in the hands of nurses who have the power to produce massive change-in my experience they just never want to use it.

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  • Anon, 29 Aug

    The point about foundation trusts is they can pretty much do as they like and have a great deal of freedom to act independently so there is no "signed up to afc" as far as they are concerned.

    You should have been able to spot this when Foundadtions were initially proposed-certainly the unions pointed it out to those who could not think for themselves-but as usual, as far as the workforce is concerned, complacancy rules in the NHS. So complacent are my colleagues in the NHS that I think even Bob Crow would have difficulty getting a proper deal for staff-they are not preapred to stand up for themselves like those in the RMT for instance. In the NHS we need union leaders with guts and fire in their bellies but equally the NHS needs its workforce to be like that too.

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