Report by Alex Evans, Reporter
Saturday, June 23, 2012
PLANS to cut the salaries of staff at health trusts in the South West are putting patients at risk, a major trade union says.
Unison has attacked plans by the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, which has been set up to reduce staff costs at health trusts across the region, including Weston Area Health Trust (WAHT).
The union claims the move would impact on health services throughout the South West.
A draft report by the consortium outlines that a key objective of the group is to cut staff costs by eight per cent.
Measures suggested in the report include increasing standard work hours from 37.5 hours per week and reviewing pay levels as well as reducing ‘unsocial hours payments’, sickness enhancements and annual leave.
Sue Orwin, chairman of Unison South West’s regional health service group executive, said: “Unison is concerned at the detrimental impact these proposals will have on patient care.
“The document produced by the cartel recognised that engaged and motivated staff are needed to improve health services, yet at the same time they acknowledge that these proposals have a serious risk of severely reducing staff morale.
“We believe the cartel’s approach is simply a cost-cutting exercise which will affect the health of NHS staff in the long term as well, not to mention the quality of services.
“The consequences for the region will be disastrous. Skilled health workers will be driven out of the region, taking money out of the local economy, deepening the healthcare postcode lottery.”
A spokesman for WAHT said: “A working group will meet in the coming months to discuss how we can better use public money and the pay bill, which is up to 70 per cent of overall spend, to achieve improvements in patient care while ensuring that we continue to operate efficiently and reward and develop our staff.
“The working group has not yet met and no decisions have been made on any proposals that may subsequently be explored further.
“The group will work closely with trade unions and seek their involvement on any proposals that are developed.
Weston Area Health NHS Trust chief executive Peter Colclough said: “The pay bill forms the largest portion of our annual expenditure and as such, it is right that we look at how we are spending that money.
“We recognise the many benefits that national pay systems bring.
“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, while ensuring our staff are engaged and motivated to provide an exceptional service.”