Union warns regional pay will force medical staff out
Plans to cut pay and conditions for thousands of healthcare staff put forward by a consortium of NHS trusts could have "devastating implications for the South West", it has been warned.
A total of 19 health service employers – including the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, Plymouth Hospitals Trust and the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust – have joined forces to create the South West Pay Consortium.
Unison, the largest union in the NHS, has already aired its concerns about the new group, which is being paid for by contributions of £10,000 per member organisation, amid concerns that the Government is to introduce regional pay deals.
The union has now published a confidential document from the consortium after what it described as "employer attempts to rebut or deny the information" it had given to members.
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Joanne Kaye, Unison regional secretary, said: "These proposals could have devastating implications for the South West and Healthcare services.
"If NHS staff earn less here than in other parts of the country where costs of living are much lower, this could lead to qualified staff leaving in droves.
"Every NHS employer in the country faces the same cost and budget pressures, but in the South West they have acted alone and their actions have compromised the work done by NHS Employers as well.
"The South West is already one of the poorest regions in the country, with a much higher-than-average cost of living. The type of changes proposed will make this problem much worse."
The consortium's "project initiation document" – marked "commercially in confidence and a draft for discussion only" – outlines several suggestions, including reducing payments to staff working unsocial hours, increasing working hours and reducing annual leave.
A spokesman for the pay consortium said the group had not yet met and no decisions had been made.
He said the project was "not about reviewing pay scales based on where people live" but looking at "more flexible ways of rewarding and incentivising staff might be constructed".
Chris Bown, chief executive of Poole Hospital Foundation Trust, who will chair the group, said: "We recognise the many benefits that national pay systems such as Agenda for Change bring, particularly in ensuring equity and fairness across pay groups.
"We are also highly supportive of the discussions taking place at a national level between NHS Employers and our trade union colleagues.
"However, we are exploring potential changes that could be made at a regional level, which would allow us to operate more efficiently whils ensuring our staff are engaged and motivated to provide an exceptional service."