Leaked document: Bath Royal United Hospital looking at ways to cut nurses' pay
Bath's Royal United Hospital is putting £10,000 of taxpayers' money into a fund to hire a director to find ways of cutting nurses' pay, overtime and annual leave, according to a leaked document.
The RUH is among 19 hospitals and health trusts said to have signed up to a controversial new group called the South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium.
A document setting out the structure and aims of the pay consortium, which is understood to have been set up to negotiate down the pay and conditions of workers in the new-look National Health Service, was yesterday leaked by furious union leaders.
The unions described the PTC Consortium as having a potentially "devastating impact" on hospital staff across the region, and said it was ‘a scandal’ that they were each contributing £10,000 from their own hospital budgets to pay a director and other staff.
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Hospitals named in the leaked document include the Royal United Hospital, Bristol's University Hospitals and hospitals in Taunton, Yeovil, Swindon, Gloucester and Cheltenham, and health trusts covering much of the region.
The document outlines how the consortium would be looking to use flexibility introduced in the Government’s NHS reforms to renegotiate pay and conditions of NHS staff.
Part of the NHS reforms give health trusts and hospital bosses greater power and flexibility to over-ride any national pay deals.
The internal document even warns that there could be a backlash to their plans from staff and patients.
“Implementing potentially significant changes to the terms and conditions of employment of staff is not without risk, in terms of legal challenge, industrial relations unrest, impact upon staff morale and engagement and reputation management,” the leaked report warned.
“Such changes are likely to resonate in the local, regional and national media, particularly if the South West is one of the first regions to take such action,” it added.
The leaked document outlines a variety of ‘schemes’ to review or reduce staffing costs - by paying nurses and staff less for working more hours, or cutting their holiday entitlement. Joanne Kaye, Unison’s regional secretary, said the union had leaked the document because health bosses had denied their plans to individual workers.
“These proposals could have devastating implications for the South West and healthcare services,” she said.
“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. Other parts of the proposals are equally dangerous – for example, if night workers see their pay cut when they are off sick, this will only lead to staff coming into work when they are unfit, raising huge cross-infection issues.”
Union leaders have already called for action to increase the pressures for key health workers in the West – because hospital staff don’t get the same boosts to their pay as colleagues in London and the Home Counties do, even though the cost of living in the rural West is often just as high.
Our members are already struggling to make ends meet and it is a scandal that a group of senior managers at Trust level are using taxpayers money to appoint a Director to examine how pay can be driven down further,” she added.
A spokeswoman for the consortium said the working group had not yet met and no decisions had been made on any proposals that may subsequently be explored further.
The group will work closely with trade unions and staff-side representatives and seek their involvement on any proposals that are developed, she added.
Chris Bown, Chief Executive of Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, will chair the group. “The paybill forms the largest portion of our annual expenditure and as such, it is right that we look at how we are spending that money,” he said.