Friday, 7 September 2012

NHS pay cuts will lead to exodus of health workers, say nurses

NHS pay cuts will lead to exodus of health workers, say nurses: Royal College of Nursing speaks out against local pay bargaining for hospital staff in south-west England NHS hospitals that impose pay cuts on staff will see health professionals leaving in protest and the quality of care coming under threat as a result, nurses' leaders claim.

Care in the south-west of England, where 20 NHS trusts are seeking to bring in local pay rates, will suffer if the plan goes ahead, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The trusts are taking a reckless gamble because the region's sizeable elderly population and falling number of nurses mean it is badly placed to cope with a "skills drain" of NHS staff angry at having their pay cut, it says.
Health unions, including the British Medical Association which represents doctors, are furious that the trusts have formed a cartel in an attempt to bring in localised pay rates, fewer holidays and reduced sick leave, as part of their efforts to cope with flat budgets and contribute to a £20bn NHS-wide savings drive. They fear that, if successful, the move by the South-West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium could erode the NHS's long-established system of national bargaining and agreed pay scales.
The consortium has told staff that unless they accept changes that the RCN calls "draconian", the jobs of 6,000 of the 68,000 staff employed by the 20 trusts could go. Pay typically takes up about 65% of a hospital trust's budget.
In a briefing analysing the potential impact of the move, which the RCN has sent to the 20 trusts, it warns: "Reducing the pay, terms and conditions of staff in the south-west is not the only choice that employers have, and this course of action is highly likely to negatively impact on patient care. Not only is there a real risk that staff will be forced to leave the NHS, but it will also be difficult to recruit, and the morale of remaining staff will be damaged further."
In an accompanying letter, Dr Peter Carter, the RCN's chief executive, adds that the move "will create a skills deficit in the region that will impact on the ability of trusts to provide high-quality care" and will increase rather than reduce staffing costs because it will involve extra bureaucracy and constant negotiation.
But Chris Brown, the chair of the consortium, who is also chief executive of Poole Hospital NHS foundation trust, rejected the RCN's claims. "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 financial and operational challenges ahead cannot be met fully by further efficiency savings or service reconfigurations alone, opportunities for which are becoming limited," he said.
Labour wants ministers to force the trusts to drop their plan, which it said was "a sign of the growing panic engulfing the NHS", struggling to make £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary. said: "Jeremy Hunt needs to intervene now to overrule this challenge to the authority of the government and the deputy prime minister who has stated his opposition to regional pay. We need to know where the secretary of state stands on national pay. If he fails to act it will be a clear signal that he is following through with his call for the 'denationalisation' of the NHS."
The Department of Health said: "There are no plans to cut NHS pay. Pay agreements need to be fit for purpose. Trade unions have not reached a national pay agreement with NHS employers over the past 18 months, prompting the South-West Consortium to begin open and transparent discussions with staff and local trade unions. No decisions or even formal proposals have yet been made."
It added: "The need for local negotiations could be significantly reduced if the NHS Staff Council, which includes the RCN, were able to bring national negotiations to a swift and successful conclusion." The Guardian

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