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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 | 29-Aug-2012 11:55 am
    I would like Bob Crow to be representing us, we truly need someone who can tell it like it is and fight our corner, but as you say above maybe even he couldn't get a rumble of support from most nurses.

    I have tried for over 2 years now to get my younger colleagues 'fired up' but nothing.

    I thought younger people would be more passionate than I, as I am no spring chicken.

    Not in the slightest. Everytime i tell them about the latest scandal to the NHS and their pay/terms/conditions they just mumble and look at me as though i am some kind of anarchist.

    In my opinion at this rate this and the next generation of nurses are screwed. If nursing even survives that long as a profession.

    Back to the workhouses and swigging gin.

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  • I know Tinkerbell-I am no spring chicken either-what happened to the time when it was young people that wanted to change the world and the oldies that were quite happy with the old order? The world has definitely been stood on its head?

    I think the young have been brainwashed having being raised in a society where they have known nothing else but rules and regulation and PC being shoved down their throats-I was talking to someone who is 36 that just happened to watch an old chat show-I think it might have been Russel Harty- she was amazed that they were allowed to discuss the things they did on the show-it just demonstrates how far this country has deteriated-it is no longer one where free speech is allowed and all sense of proportion has been lost.

    Orwell-you should be alive on this day!!

    I often think of myself as old enough not to want to change the world anymore-its good to know that now and again there is a cause I am sufficiently passionate about to banish that thought.

    Anyway-thats my rant for the day over with.

    I am afraid it would just be back to the workhouse for me-I am already into swigging the gin-cant understand what they have against it while I am working!!!

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  • I cannot but think the majority comments on here regarding Nurses having little motivation and guts to stand up for themselves is unfortunatly true.

    The comments I receive regarding striking or other action from my colleagues is that they don't want to 'put their patients at risk'. They don't seem to have the fore sight to see that in the near future, although recruitment of nurses may continue, many will opt to work abroad or in other non-NHS establishments, after having used the UK to fund they training. However immoral this may be, who could blame them?

    At the present time, Nurses are loyal to their profession, but new comers may not be. If the above happens, we may be left with the scenario of only being able to provide one qualified Nurse on a ward overseeing several HCAs due to gross lack of qualified staff. I wonder how our colleagues would cope with that!!

    Call me cynical if you want, but could this not be part of the eventual "Plan"?

    It's time for all Nurses and medics to raise their heads above the sand and take a long look around them, for the sake of their profession.

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  • michael stone

    I seem unable to find the one where red posted his comment he later attributed to Michael Caine, but it sort of fits here as a ‘lighter touch’.

    As an outsider, but one who reads the comments nurses place on NT, it does strike me that;

    1) Nurses get a less-good deal than doctors, partly because nurses do not ‘fight their corner’ as effectively as doctors seem to;
    2) At least some of you, seem to be fully aware of that;
    3) But it seems impossible to do anything about it ?

    Michael Caine ? When and where ?

    I think he probably said something like ‘Zulus. Thousands of them’ in the film Zulu, but he was playing an officer, so he would have been speaking ‘Queen’s English’.

    I must admit that the mental picture – thousands of nurses, armed with spears and shields and clad only in grass skirts, marching on Cameron HQ – strikes me as both impressive and newsworthy, and doubtless the Met Police would be overwhelmed by it: but isn’t it getting a bit late in the year, for such scanty attire ? On the other hand, should skirmishes occur, at least you would expect the first-aid to be impressive ! Although I’m not 100% convinced that Cameron and Lansley, would get treated anywhere near the front of the queue?

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  • "Although I’m not 100% convinced that Cameron and Lansley, would get treated anywhere near the front of the queue?2

    nurses and doctors treat whoever comes through the door in order of clinical priority. they are bound by duty bound to reserve their own judgements or make any personal distinctions and I find it regrettable that someone commenting here thinks so badly of them to make such a disparaging comment.

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  • Mike Stone
    yes, its an oft quoted scene from Zulu, but like the line 'Elementary, my dear Watson' never actually appeared in the film.

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