THOUSANDS of doctors and nurses face being sacked unless they agree to drastic changes to their pay and conditions as hospitals tackle an escalating funding crisis, a leaked document confirmed yesterday.
The document from 19 NHS trust bosses obtained by the Sunday Times outlines measures to cut costs in the South West.
Among these are the termination of all staff contracts and a reissue on different terms that could include pay cuts of up to five per cent, an end to overtime for nights, weekends and bank holidays and reduced holiday leave.
Also planned are longer shifts and cutting sick pay rates.
All those who refuse the new contract will be deemed to have made themselves unemployed.
Nineteen chief executives of hospital trusts in the South West of England have set up their own organisation outside NHS structures to drive through the changes for the government.
The measures could affect more than 60,000 NHS staff, with about half of them medics.
The nine-page document states that by co-operating the executives will be able to overcome an ‘extremely hostile’ reaction to the steps they believe must be taken, especially if they take the ‘last resort’ of sacking all staff and re-engaging them on less favourable terms.
A Department Of Health spokesperson said: ‘NHS providers have long had the power to employ staff on such terms that they consider appropriate, including under the foundation trust laws passed under the previous government.
‘This means employers are free to negotiate any changes to national agreements directly with staff locally or their representatives.
‘We would expect NHS employers and trade unions to work together to ensure the national Agenda for Change pay scheme remains fit for purpose.’
BMA member Anna Athow told News Line: ‘It is obvious that if they get away with this in the SW, it will be instantly rolled out nationally in the NHS and to the rest of the public sector.
‘There must be a united pact by all the health service unions, that any such moves will be met by unlimited united national industrial action, inviting all the public sector unions, and all trade unions, to take part, since all need the NHS.
‘At the BMA conference in June a motion was passed condemning local pay. A two thirds majority was achieved for the funding of a campaign to defend national pay and terms and conditions.
‘The BMA leadership must now be made to take the lead in organising national action to stop pay cutting and mass sackings.
‘Every union needs to take action.’
A national Unison spokeswoman said: ‘This is another attempt to bring in regional pay by the back door.
‘We are in negotiations nationally on Agenda for Change. This rogue element threatens to derail those talks.
‘If the South West cartel goes ahead it will be bad news for patients as well as staff.’