Nurses could face a further attack on their pay, terms and conditions after the South West “cartel” set out fresh plans to save millions of pounds.
The group of 19 acute trusts has withdrawn its previous threat of breaking away from the national Agenda for Change pay deal – on the condition that unions and employers get back round the table for new negotiations to cut staff pay.
If further national talks fail, the consortium is reserving the right to reinstate its controversial project to break away from the national framework.
The move comes less than a week after unions signed up to a new national deal that will mean the end of automatic incremental pay rises and sick pay at out of hours rates (see below).
The South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, dubbed a cartel by health unions, said it welcomed the changes to AfC that were agreed on 26 February and which come into effect on 31 March. But it argued the savings expected as a result do not go far enough.
It has calculated the AfC changes would save £275,000 a year for an average £220m turnover trust with 3,500 staff. Such a trust typically needs to make savings of around £11m a year to cope with growing demand for services and squeeze on incomes.
As well as calling for fresh talks, the consortium has drawn up a menu of changes that trusts already have the freedom to introduce under AfC, but which the majority have previously failed to fully implement – either due to their unpopularity or technical complexity. It is encouraging other trusts across the country to adopt them as well as its members in order to increase workforce savings.
Chris Bown, chief executive of Poole Hospital Foundation Trust and the chair of the consortium steering group, told Nursing Times he was “encouraged” by the national deal and supported it, but “from a financial point of view” it did not “solve the problem”.
He said the consortium was “never about regional pay”, but “making sure pay, terms and conditions were fit for purpose”.
As reported by Nursing Times last week, the Foundation Trust Network has also called for a “debate” on further changes to pay, terms and conditions within the next five years.
But Christina McAnea, Unison head of health and chair of the staff side of the NHS Staff Council, said there would “absolutely not” be any further talks over further changes to AfC.
She said: “Our members have had pay freezes, pension changes, redundancies and there comes a time when you reach a breaking point. Unison will take a hardline with any employer who seeks to break away from the national agreements.”
Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, which negotiated the latest AfC changes on behalf of the government, said: “Many trusts have ideas about how to save money and improve productivity. These are very challenging times.
“Our efforts will now go into implementing the deal we have agreed. This will be a significant task for local employers.”
Jon Skewes, Royal College of Midwives director for policy, employment relations and communications, said: “Midwives voted in overwhelming numbers to accept the [AfC] changes on the basis that acceptance would help to secure UK-wide bargaining in the NHS.
“We understand that the employers who have joined the South West Cartel accept those changes, too, and will work with local staff side representatives to implement the nationally agreed changes.
“In the aftermath of the Francis report, they should now spend more time ensuring they have enough motivated midwives and other NHS staff as the basis for ensuring better, more compassionate care.”
The agreed changes to the AfC contract are:
- Progression through all incremental pay points in all pay bands to be conditional on individuals demonstrating that they meet locally agreed performance requirements in line with a proposed new Annex addition to the handbook.
- For staff in bands 8C, 8D and 9, pay progression into the last two points in a band will become annually earned, and only retained where the appropriate local level of performance is reached in a given year.
- The removal of accelerated pay progression associated with preceptorship for staff joining pay band 5 as new entrants.
- The scope to put in place alternative, non Agenda for Change, pay arrangements for Band 8C and above.
- New guidance on the principles to be followed regarding workforce re-profiling, including the need to follow the processes set out in the NHS Job Evaluation Handbook and the application of local organisational change policies to protect staff in cases of staff redeployment into lower grade posts.
- Pay during sickness absence will be paid at basic salary level - not including any allowance or payments linked to working patterns or additional work commitments. This change will not apply to staff who are paid on spine points 1-8 of Agenda for Change, or to those whose absence is due to work-related injury or disease.