Further cuts in NHS pay, terms and conditions are needed to help NHS trusts meet their financial targets, according to a consortium of trusts in the South West.
The group of 19 trusts, whose plans have been politically controversial, today published proposals for its “approach to addressing NHS pay, terms and conditions”.
Its announcement comes less than a week after trade unions signed up to a new national deal affecting one million NHS staff.
The group, dubbed a cartel by health unions, said it welcomed the alterations to Agenda for Change which were agreed on Tuesday and will come into effect on 31 March.
However, the consortium also argues the savings made do not go far enough, calculating that for a hypothetical £220m turnover trust with 3,500 staff, they will save just £275,000 a year. Such a trust needs to be saving around £11m a year under the Nicholson challenge.
The consortium has withdrawn its threat of breaking away from national pay agreements. However, it also but called on NHS Employers to go back to unions to demand further savings from both Agenda for Change and doctors’ contracts.
Its proposals say there could also be a decision to “reinstate the active work of the consortium, if at any stage there is no confidence that the national negotiation will deliver the changes needed to pay, terms and conditions”.
The consortium’s plans also include a suite of changes employment changes which trists can already make under existing agreements. It will aim for all 19 of its trusts to adopt them along with trusts across the country.
Chris Bown, chief executive of Poole Hospital Foundation Trust and the chair of the consortium steering group, told HSJ the group was “encouraged” by the national deal and supported it.
But he added: “From a financial point of view this doesn’t solve the problem, it can’t be the end point.”
Mr Bown said the consortium was “never about regional pay” adding: “We were about making sure pay, terms and conditions were fit for purpose.”
If further national talks fail Mr Bown said the consortium would reserve the right to reinstate its work to break away from national agreements.
Chair of the union staff side Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison, said there would “absolutely not” be any further talks. She said: “We always knew employers would want to come back for more but unions have done our bit, we now expect employers to do their bit.
“Our members have had pay freezes, pension changes and there comes a time when you reach a breaking point. If employers want to push us to that breaking point then so be it.”
She said: “Unison will take a hardline with any employer who seeks to break away from the national agreements.”
Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Many trusts have ideas about how to save money and improve productivity. These are very challenging times.
“Our efforts will now go into implementing the deal we have agreed. This will be a significant task for local employers.”
He said NHS Employers organisation was also seeking to engage with doctors’ unions.