Plans to introduce regional pay at Derriford Hospital are shelved - but new fears for Plymouth staff
By SOPHIE TAYLOR Health Reporter
HOSPITAL staff are fearing for their jobs after fresh cost-cutting plans were revealed.
New fears have been raised by MP's, union officials and city health workers after proposals to introduce regional pay are ditched – and new cost-cutting measures suggested in their place.
Staff at Derriford Hospital could be facing cuts to their holiday entitlement, working hours, unsociable hours allowance and sick pay if Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Derriford, opts to implement recommendations put forward by the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium (SWC), of which it is a member.
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But union chiefs have vowed to resist the SWC's suggested "workforce cost reduction opportunities", which were put forward in a document released on Friday.
The SWC says unprecedented financial challenges mean that the average health trust must cut £15 million from their budget over three years with an estimated 65 per cent of this coming from payroll costs.
"The consortium has estimated that the size of the challenge facing participating Trusts is equivalent to a reduction in whole time equivalent of around 6,000 posts over the next three years across all consortium organisations," the report states.
Suzy Franklin, branch secretary at Derriford UNISON, said despite the SWC dropping the idea of regional pay, there was still a "lot of concern" from staff at the city's main hospital.
"The report from the Consortium makes lots of suggestion about jobs going," she said.
"We are not particularly happy, not pleased at all. We have been inundated with email's and phone calls from members of staff. We will resist this.
"Hopefully Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust will pull out of the Consortium but we won't get an answer for a while and it is still leaving the staff here hanging.
"I'm sure if the suggestions are implemented it will impact on patient care. Staff are already working hard to cover other jobs that have gone.
"Something has got to give and our worry is that it will be patient care."
The business case released by the SWC does show a commitment to nationally agreed NHS pay guidelines known as Agenda for Change. But there are no holds barred on what individual trusts must do to safeguard services.
The 33 'workforce cost reduction opportunities' put forward by the SWC include asking staff to work extra hours for free, give up holiday entitlement and earn less for night shifts in exchange for keeping their jobs.
Local MP's, who are unhappy they were not consulted on the proposals by the SWC, have said they are hoping for a meeting with the Consortium in the near future.
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said: "It's extraordinarily discourteous of them not to involve us in this process but I'm sure they are very aware we would have a lot of questions given that the national pay agreement already makes significant changes.
"The 6,000 posts they mention is a significant loss of staff and without a doubt this will impact on patient care."
But Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said given the savings the NHS is faced with making, problems were always to be expected.
He said: "I want to maintain as many jobs as possible. But if there is no regional pay then obviously the Trusts have to find other ways of saving money."
And Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, told The Herald he was "delighted" that regional pay seemed to be "dead and buried", but was now hoping employers would enter into conversations with employees about the future of the service.
"I am not in favour of a heavy handed take it or leave it approach," he said.
Ann James, chief executive of Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said she had received the report and was considering the proposals.
She said: "There are no proposals in the report to implement regional pay.
"As I have stated all along, we want to gather the views of our staff, union representatives and key stakeholders on the options and then our Board will consider them, taking into account all views heard.
"We have set out a process for engagement to ensure all staff have an opportunity to hear from me directly on what the proposals entail, ask questions and give us their views.
"Our Board has to ensure that it has all of the options and information available in order to take a considered view about the best way to close the gap between our income and our expenditure for future years."