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The News Line: News NURSES UNION SLAMS LOW PAY PLAN! THE Royal College of Nursing (RCN) yesterday warned that local pay will harm patient care.

It did so as it slammed the plan by 20 South West England hospitals to slash pay rates and break with national pay agreements.

Its briefing paper called ‘South West Pay Cartel – the health economy and workforce context’ warned that 20 hospitals have paid £200,000 into a fund to set up the SW Consortium of NHS trusts.

These aim to cut the pay of NHS staff in the SW England Strategic Health Authority (SHA) area.
The trusts involved include the following which are making large cuts:

The Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust (FT) is to cut 250 WTE (whole time equivalent) posts this year.

Taunton and Somerset FT is to cut 504 WTE posts over three years, 60 per cent of them clinical.

Dorset County Hospital FT is cutting 39 beds, closing the child and adolescent learning disabilities service and has already closed spinal services.

Plymouth Hospitals is cutting 281 posts in 2011/12, half nursing and is downbanding nurses.

Royal Cornwall is to sack 400 staff by March 2012.

North Bristol is closing Frenchay hospital. The new site will have fewer beds and staff.

Weston Area Health has closed a ward of 24 beds.

Last week, the cartel published two ‘discussion documents’ which outlined their plans to move away from Agenda for Change terms and conditions for nurses and other NHS staff, and from the national contracts for doctors and managers.

They want to reduce annual leave, and sick pay, and increase working hours, and cut standard pay increments.

The trusts are driven by the national imperative to save £20bn by 2015, but claim that by making staff work longer and paying them less, that they can employ 6,000 more staff as cheap labourers.

The RCN’s Chief Executive Peter Carter responded: ‘We say that is simply not true and what will actually happen is a skills drain as staff move away. Trusts. . . should think what this will mean for patient care.’

The RCN summarises its view as follows:

‘The proposals for regional pay would exacerbate inequalities and harm patient care, be bureaucratic and expensive for local trusts to implement, lack economies of scale which would take money away from patient care, and result in a skills drain with staff moving away from lower paid areas.’

The RCN briefing provides explosive testimony by nurses to the terrible effects of the present cost-cutting and running down of proper nurse to patient staffing ratios in the SW.

One nurse says: ‘There is a staff shortage. They are not replacing staff who are leaving, retiring or going on maternity leave . . . Staff are off late (some days as much as two hours after their 12 hour shift ended) on almost a weekly basis because of lack of staff.’

Health trade unions must be prepared to carry out national strike action to smash this attempt to impose low pay and break up national agreements made by the trade unions.

This is not a South West issue it is a national issue, with the bosses striking at what they consider to be one of the weaker areas.

The effect of the action will be the imposition of local pay nationally.

This is a life and death question for workers. It must be stopped and the coalition government that is sponsoring it brought down and replaced with a workers government.


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