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NHS trust bosses plan for regional pay cuts

Cash strapped hospital chiefs are proposing drastic pay cuts for doctors and other NHS staff in a bid to break away from national pay terms and conditions.

A leaked scoping document reveals that a consortium of 19 NHS trusts – dubbed a “pay cartel” by opponents – have joined forces in the south-west to take on the unions and re-negotiate pay at a regional level.

In the worst case scenario the document recommends that if staff refuse to accept cutbacks then they could be sacked and re-employed on new terms with pay cuts of 5% for those earning above £55,000; no overtime for nights, weekends and bank holidays; cuts in sick pay and holiday leave and longer shifts.

At least two other hospitals in Surrey and Manchester are understood to have floated plans to renegotiate staff contracts.

Chancellor George Osborne raised the prospect of allowing public sector organisations to introduce different pay rates across the country in the Budget last March.

The Pay Review Bodies are due to report to the government this week on the effect of introducing regional pay rates after the public sector pay freeze ends in April 2013.

“This is another attack on loyal hard working doctors and consultants,” warned Eddie Saville, general secretary of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA). “To come out and start saying that doctors are going to have to work longer hours and have their pay cut is not going to enamour them to their employers. We will be looking to ensure that this initiative doesn’t start roller coasting into other areas of the country.”

He said they would be working with all the other health service unions in the south-west to fight any move away from national pay bargaining. The HCSA has submitted a motion on regional pay to be discussed at the TUC’s annual conference in September.

The BMA’s annual representative meeting last month also came out strongly against any move to introduce local pay agreements. Anna Athow, a retired consultant, warned: “It would mean lower pay in areas like the north, the Midlands, Wales, the south-west and south coast and difficulty in recruiting and training staff outside London and the south-east.”

It was also argued that locally determined pay could impact on the training of juniors and affect their free movement around the UK.

A BMA spokesperson said: “We understand that in these tough economic times, savings do have to be made. The focus should be on NHS staff and managers working together to find more efficient ways of working and of shaping services, while improving or at least maintaining quality.”

MPs from across the political spectrum and particularly the Liberal Democrats, have voiced their opposition to the prospect of localised public sector pay.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is said to be ready to veto the scheme amid fears of a backlash in northern England.

A paper prepared by in the office of Liberal Democrat MP, John Pugh, analyses the evidence submitted to the Treasury and Office of Manpower Economics, which administers the Pay Review Bodies, and concludes that there is no economic case for introducing regional pay.

The government’s argument is that public sector pay premiums across the UK are “crowding-out” the private sector. But the report says statistics show that the private sector is not struggling to recruit staff as vacancies in the public sector go unfilled for longer and a survey of business leaders shows that the majority have not struggled to compete with public sector wages.

Another report this week by the TUC also warns that local pay plans could cost local economies almost £10 billion a year. Researchers from the New Economics Foundation conducted an in-depth analysis of the arguments and found little evidence to support the government’s position.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “NHS providers have long had the power to employ staff on such terms that they consider appropriate, including under the foundation trust laws passed under the previous government. This means employers are free to negotiate any changes to national agreements directly with staff locally or their representatives.”

Chris Bown, chair of the south west NHS trust consortium and Poole Hospital Foundation Trust chief executive, said: “The pay bill forms the largest proportion of our annual expenditure and it is right that we look at how we are spending that money.”

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12 Responses to “NHS trust bosses plan for regional pay cuts”

  1. Flattliner says:

    Bring on this poker game, ’cause so far as I see it we have the stronger hand and they are bluffing. How long could we survive without pay? More than a month or two I suspect, because we’re all hideously middle class and have a bit stashed away. Some could survive on their private income alone. How long could the hospitals function without any doctors? No time at all.

    Here’s how it goes: You have dismissed us. Bye then. We will return when you re-employ us on our previous national terms and conditions.

    They can’t win, and unless they are terminally stupid they must realise that. This deliberate leak is therefore merely an ill-considered scare tactic.

  2. Malcolm Morrison says:

    Whatever happened to Employment Law? Unless the law has changed recently, I was under the impression that TUPE (Transfer of Undetakings, Protection of Employmenmt) regulations applied when a ‘new’ employer ‘took over’ staff (which presumably applies when a Foundation Trust becomes an employer).

    Thus, an employer cannot sack (make redundant) an employee and then either re-employ that person, or anyone else, to what is essentially the SAME job. They would have to make the POST redundant – somewhat difficult with clinical staff!

    I suppose one should assume that these managers are aware of employment law (though maybe one should not assume anything to do with managers or politicians!). So, if their proposals are legal, maybe all doctors should resign and then offer their services back to the NHS as ‘Consultants’ – at the sort of fess claimed by management consultants!

    One of the advantages of a national pay scale is that it allows staff to move freely around the country at ‘known’ pay scales. Of course the ‘cost of living’ varies in different parts of the country; but, before national pay scales, it was often difficult to get staff to work in ‘less attractive’ areas and ‘inducements’ were offered to attract staff. In areas where the ‘cost of living’ is low, the national pay will go further and so remove the need for such inducements. This has resulted in a (more or less) unifrom standard of care for patients in ALL parts of the country. Do we really want to go back to LOCAL health services?

  3. Jerry Nelson says:

    Flatliner’s right – they’re a bunch of a******es, and they’ll blink first. Those of us who have whiled away happy hours playing high stakes poker with anaesthetists because there were no porters to bring our patients to theatre have nothing to fear from a load of comprehensive-schooled managers in thrall to a faux-conservative government that treats U-turns as a natural mode of progression.

  4. David Gordon says:

    Chief Execs are regional civil servants under the control of Whitehall and this latest crackpot idea is only being floated with the blessing of our political masters and as such opens yet another front in the continuing onslaught on the NHS. Fly a few daft kites, let the Chief execs take the flak, while Lansley can sit cosily in his bunker. Brilliant strategy but do Mr Bown et al have the insight to realise they are being used in a cynical political game.

  5. William says:

    Q. How do we attract good quality medical staff to deprived areas?

    A. Offer them less pay than they would get in cosy middle-class regions.

    It beggars belief!

  6. RadicalisedofSW says:

    Of course, since it’s so cheap to live in the SW we should be paid accordingly.

    For example, here in Bath an unexceptional semi-detached family house is only…….

    8x a consultant’s starting salary.

  7. Clare says:

    The reality of local pay is that less mobile groups of staff will be paid less in ‘less attractive’ areas. Doctors will vote with their feet so they could end up having to pay more to attract doctors to these ‘less attractive’ areas.

  8. Sibo says:

    there are many challenges at the moment. The south west initiative is but one.

    what however, I do find so hard to take is that we seem to have employed vast tranches of intermediate managers, whose job it seems is to make clinicians do the managerial administrative work. Get rid of these, your budget is reduced.

    if the south west initiative goes through, and the public evisceration of the South London NHS Trust results in the NHS HR machine getting its head around processes involved with making Doctors redundant, then there will be wholesale medical unemployment.

    all of the posts in the thread are cogent and true. unfortunately logic and sense are rare commodities in the NHS, and when Lansley can issue soundbites about the pay consortium ‘ free to enable trusts to aid in staff recruitment and retention’, then this initiative will happen.

    Unfortunately there are very many doctors who are accredited at the moment who will not get jobs, would work under the new terms and conditions. As doctors ,management will always play the professionalism and patient safety card, and striking is ineffective and not universal.

    protected by employment law???? Lansley will get it changed.

  9. cd says:

    Once the trolleys line the corridors, the 12 hour waits grow and the total break down of (in my case a&e) are visible for all, “they” will give in. poor patients – but not my fault.

  10. Carl says:

    Those of us who have chosen to live in the North of England already get lower pay as there is very little private practice. In my specialty I could easily have doubled or even tripled my income working in a more afluent area of the country. If they cut my NHS pay then I am off. But of course that is probably what they want. They are just trying to destroy what remains of the NHS. I agree that we must resist as a united group.

  11. David77 says:

    I agree with Flatliner that this is a deliberate leak and scare tactic to warn us of what may be to come if we don’t “put up or shut up”.

    If it ever comes to pass I hope ALL staff affected send the new contracts back marked “Please file where the sun doesn’t shine” and call their bluff. Hospitals can’t fuction without doctors or nurses and it would be nigh on impossible to try and replace all members of staff in such a short time frame. One day is all it would take for them to beg everyone to come back. The CEOs would be too afraid to face a charge of corporate manslaughter if there were any deaths on site while the hospital was understaffed.

  12. OldCynicDoc says:

    Local pay: fantastic idea! Lets deprived areas get even more deprived. Medical staff and teachers will vote with their feet whilst they still can get out and afford to live somewhere with a more average rate of pay. Bit of reverse Robin Hood policy here. In keeping with this Southern/affluent/Eton government?

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