Health campaigners have responded angrily to a suggestion from an NHS boss that staff could “donate” a portion of their annual leave as part of an effort to save £30m.
In a staff bulletin, Epsom and St Helier Trust chief executive Samantha Jones said that employees could play an important role in helping to save the money in the current financial year.
She wrote: “A number of you have said that you would be willing to sacrifice some of your annual leave allowance and come to work instead.
“It might seem obvious, but each and every single day off in the organisation costs the Trust money. This is particularly true if a member of bank or agency staff has to be hired to cover for your post.
“I fully support this idea, and in fact I have decided to work on one of my annual leave days. If everybody agreed to work just one annual leave day, it would make a significant contribution in helping to achieve our goal.”
Ms Jones explained that in many NHS trusts, staff were agreeing to reduce their contracted hours between now and the end of the financial year, in return for an appropriate reduction in pay.
“I know some of you have enquired about this and I would encourage you to discuss this with your line manager and the HR manager for your area.
“Leading by example, a number of our consultants and doctors have already agreed to take a reduction in their pay between now and March 2011, but work the same number of hours as they do now.”
NHS pressure group Health Emergency chairman Geoff Martin said: “It wasn’t the nurses and other members of staff who dragged the Epsom and St Helier Trust into financial chaos, and suggesting that they cut their hours and their pay and give up their annual leave and work for nothing is a disgrace.”
Unison regional officer Michael Walker said: “This shows how bad the situation has become when it is suggested that nurses and health workers give up their annual leave to bail out the NHS.”
He said the union had written to local MP and health minister Paul Burstow urging him to intervene and bail out the hospital.
Mr Walker said: “We must stop dedicated, overstretched staff from being forced to give up their holiday in order to provide vital patient care.”