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City council urges trust to avoid opting out of pay deal

Health officials must formally consider the impact of a regional pay scheme on specialist staff recruitment and the local economy, a local authority has said.

Plymouth City Council’s overview and scrutiny committee has told PHNT (Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust) to engage fully with healthcare staff to improve productivity, redesign services and better manage sickness absence as an alternative to altering pay and conditions.

The PHNT is one of 20 trusts involved in the SWC (South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium), which is considering breaking away from national terms and conditions of service.

The city council’s special health and social care overview and scrutiny panel last month heard evidence about the controversial strategy from the BMA and other health unions including the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON and the Royal College of Midwives.

Damaging idea

BMA industrial relations officer Richard Griffiths said he told the meeting that the consortium’s proposals would be counter-productive.

Mr Griffiths said: ‘I told them that the proposals are inappropriate, ill thought-out and an unnecessary divisive and costly diversion that will damage quality and equality of patient care.

‘Instead of attacking medical staff’s terms and conditions, trusts should be working with them to improve service design and delivery of patient services.’

The panel’s nine recommendations to the trust board include a demand ‘that all staff are fully engaged in the consultation of any changes that affect them and their views demonstrably taken into account’.

The panel said the trust should also:

  • Formally seek the views of other public sector employers in Plymouth and the surrounding area
  • Publish a response to a survey, which found low staff morale
  • Report back to it to discuss progress against its recommendations.

Up for debate

PHNT chief executive Ann James, who attended the panel meeting, said afterwards that the trust board was in listening mode.

Union officials were invited to a meeting of the trust board last Friday and the trust will report back to the panel next month, a PHNT spokesperson said.

In a statement on the trust website, Ms James adds: ‘We are a member of the SWC but we are not bound by any of its proposals. We expect to have some proposals to consider from [SWC] between October and December.

‘Part of our deliberations with staff and as a board will be to look at alternatives and the impact any decisions we make will have on staff morale, care to patients and, as a major employer within the city, the economic prosperity of the city and the surrounding area.’ 

The SWC is in the midst of drawing up plans to break away from national pay, terms and conditions in a bid to save £12m across the region over three years. A discussion document suggests cuts to annual leave, paid on-call time and supporting professional activities.