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BMA still concerned by cartel's stance on regional pay

The BMA has expressed concern about the continued attack on staff pay and conditions by a consortium of NHS trusts.

The SWC (South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium), a consortium of 18 NHS trusts, has indicated it still supports proposals to tackle staff costs as part of efficiency savings but documents released on Friday suggest a shift in its desire to move to a system of regional pay.

The consortium formed last year and caused a furore with its plans to break away from national pay, terms and conditions. It once had 20 trusts but a second trust, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, withdrew last week. The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust withdrew last year.

The SWC has welcomed a national deal for staff on Agenda for Change contracts, agreed last week.

But its latest documents say it would reconsider a regional approach if national negotiations on pay, terms and conditions are not considered compatible with its aim of fit for purpose terms and conditions.

Awards face the axe

The documents advocate clamping down on the PAs (programmed activities) and SPA (supporting professional activities) of consultants and staff, associate specialists and specialty doctors.

The BMA has campaigned to ensure a continuation of national terms and conditions in the South West and elsewhere.

Responding to the SWC’s latest recommendations, BMA consultants committee chair Paul Flynn said: ‘We’re concerned that the consortium continues to emphasise cuts to staff pay and terms, as if this were the only way to improve efficiencies.’

Dr Flynn added that he was also concerned about the SWC’s statements about implementing changes to the junior doctor and consultants’ contracts — none of which have been agreed.

‘[The SWC] also makes premature presumptions about possible changes to the terms and conditions of consultants and junior doctors in England. The BMA is currently considering government proposals, but no decisions have been made about entering formal talks,’ he said.

‘If negotiations were to take place, they would be conducted at a national level, and led by the BMA and NHS Employers.’

The consortium says changes are necessary to save 6,000 jobs over the next three years in the SWC member organisations by making £15m of efficiency savings. The majority of these proposed savings are through staff costs.

A different approach

The SWC documents, An Approach to Addressing Pay, Terms and Conditions and Optimising Existing Pay, Terms and Conditions, list 60 options including:

  • Advanced job planning — justifying every element of SPA time and scheduling PAs to meet specific agreed outcomes
  • Capping PAs to a maximum of 12
  • Limiting SAS doctors to one SPA and reducing those of consultants by 0.5
  • A local pay policy for extra remuneration for additional clinical activity
  • Restricting study leave to the required minimum
  • ‘Very tight’ daily management of sickness absence.

SWC steering group chair Chris Bown said: ‘There has been much speculation over the consortium’s work and intentions, and I believe that in publishing [the reports], many of the myths surrounding the consortium will be shattered — for example, there are no proposals to implement regional pay.

‘We have listened to the many views raised, and believe that in our report we have identified a sensible way forward which seeks to encourage national solutions wherever possible, whilst at the same time identifying that future changes must be made in a timely way and be fit for purpose.’

The report will now be considered by the SWC’s member trusts.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust chair Roger French said the trust had withdrawn because it was the board’s ‘very firm view that we will not take forward any proposal which takes our staff out of nationally agreed terms and conditions’.