Published: 06/02/2003, Volume II3, No. 5841 Page 10

A 'postcode lottery' whereby staff in some parts of Scotland benefit from good working practices which are denied to others must come to an end, Scottish health minister Malcolm Chisholm warned on Friday.

He said policies allowing practices such as flexible working must be implemented consistently across Scotland if the health service is to become an 'exemplar employer'. Speaking in Edinburgh at the fifth national partnership conference, the minister announced new arrangements to ensure that human resource issues are tackled and implemented on a Scotland-wide basis.

The Scottish partnership forum is to take on a more strategic role, promoting partnership working while the newly constituted human resources forum is intended to ensure agreements on HR issues are used across Scotland where consistency is appropriate.

Both involve representatives from trade unions, professional organisations, trust/health board management and the Scottish Executive health department.

And Mr Chisholm supported the principle that anyone working for the NHS, even through private contractors, should benefit from NHS pay settlements. But he stopped short of saying contracts should be removed from contractors who paid at rates below those set by Agenda for Change.

Asked by a Unison representative whether he would advocate removing contracts from private contractors which were still paying staff working in the NHS£4.37 an hour, Mr Chisholm said: 'Low-pay agreements should apply to everybody.'