‘It’s outrageous – asking workers to work more hours for nothing and hand back a day’s pay,’ Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust UNISON branch secretary Marion Birch told News Line yesterday.

Referring to a leaked memo, Birch said: ‘The suggestion was to work extra overtime and not get paid.

‘It’s absolutely outrageous, I shouldn’t think people will take any notice of the memo, they work enough hours for free as it is – nurses are always doing an extra half hour.

‘And people like porters or catering staff are low paid already.

‘The whole thing is objectionable.’

The British Medical Association has also slammed Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust over the memo to staff, asking them to contribute an extra day of unpaid work.

Commenting on the letter, Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, says: ‘There is clear evidence that many medical staff are already putting in significant unpaid work for the NHS.

‘To put this kind of pressure on them to give up even more of their pay and holiday is unacceptable.

‘Intimidating employees into working for free is no way to run a health service in one of the richest countries in the world.

‘Such pressure is likely to lose the limited good will left in the health service.

‘We seem to have reached a point where NHS managers are so obsessed with balancing the books that they lose regard for the staff who are working round the clock for patients.

‘It’s even more galling that the Trust seems to be doing this because it is determined to go ahead with a private finance initiative scheme.

‘Such deals provide little long term value, and going ahead with it is likely to make the Trust’s financial situation even worse in the future.’

In the memo from Trust director of human resources Terry Coode, staff were warned: ‘To be unsuccessful in our target will have serious consequences for the trust that will affect us all.

‘It will jeopardise our investment and development plans, including our ability to build the PFI.’

The memo also offered staff six-month sabbaticals without pay, with the promise that staff would be able to return to their original job or a similar position.

Employees could use the time off to ‘pursue a personal ambition or just to take a well-earned break’, the memo suggested.

A UNISON national spokeswoman told News Line: ‘It’s outrageous to suggest that nurses and other NHS workers should have to give up their time for free to pay for mis-management by the trust.

‘It’s not solving the underlying problem.

‘We know many NHS workers put in many hours for free, already.

‘This is adding insult to injury – to help pay for a PFI scheme, which will not only cost taxpayers millions of pounds but will also line the pockets of management consultants and shareholders.’