Row as health trusts bid to settle pay regionally
PROPOSALS to change the pay and conditions of NHS staff in the South West will harm patient care, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
A group of 20 health trusts in the South West – including bodies in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire – have formed a "cartel" in an attempt to move away from the national pay system and set pay regionally instead.
But the RCN believes the trusts should continue to abide by national terms and conditions agreements, arguing a regional system would lead to lower staff pay and threaten healthcare to vulnerable patients.
It has published a report claiming that healthcare in the region is in a "precarious" position and that trusts have begun slashing jobs and services to meet financial targets.
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The organisation highlighted the closure of 24 beds at Hutton Ward at Weston General Hospital, in Weston-super-Mare, and the predicted loss of beds and jobs when Frenchay Hospital closes and services are transferred to the new £430 million hospital being built at Southmead.
It also pointed out that Weston Area Health NHS Trust had some of the least satisfied staff in the country, based on an NHS employee survey conducted last year.
The RCN says the South West has some of the greatest health demands in the country, because it has the oldest population. The area also has a below-average number of qualified nursing staff.
RCN chief executive Peter Carter said: "The cartel in the South West alleges that cutting terms and conditions of staff would save jobs. We say that is simply not true and what would actually happen is a skills drain, as staff move away.
"Any trusts looking at such a Draconian cost-cutting exercise should look again and think what this will mean to patient care."
Chris Bown, chair of the pay and conditions consortium steering group, said: "The consortium believes that amendments to staff, pay, terms and conditions could be introduced that will support sustainable organisations, promoting job security and viable services whilst lessening the need for reductions in workforce or the quality of care our patients rightly expect from us.
"It is worth remembering that the consortium is also looking at ways in which pay arrangements may be enhanced for high-performing staff members.
"We do not accept that any introduction of revised pay, terms or conditions will be followed by a wholesale exodus of staff from the South West, or a decline in the high quality care our patients receive.
"The consortium believes that the financial and operational challenges ahead cannot be met fully by further efficiency savings or service reconfigurations alone."