WORKFORCE: Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust expects to save more than £400,000 by holding back wage increases for low paid staff.

While most NHS staff salaries are frozen, national negotiators had agreed that those earning less than £21,000 a year would receive a £250 pay rise. However Southend foundation trust is not part of the national Agenda for Change agreement, so is able to negotiate staff pay locally and has opted not to pass on the pay rise for the lowest grades.

It is the only foundation trust to have so far used its right to opt out of AfC through staff ballot.

As part of £9.1m of “non-recurring” savings to be made this year, documents submitted by Southend to the regulator Monitor said £412,000 would be saved from “not funding pay award”.  It is thought the move will effect more than 1,600 staff.

However, the trust noted that “decisions made locally could impact on recruitment and retention if the actions that the trust takes appear to disadvantage staff to a greater extent than national pay settlements”.  

Royal College of Nursing officer for Essex Mike Kavanagh said: “They are refusing to give what is a very small raise to the lowest paid staff. It is asking the lowest paid staff to subsidise the service, that’s completely wrong.”

A spokeswoman for the trust said: “The year’s pay increments were fully funded and paid to staff. Following extensive consultation with staff and staffside unions the Trust did not pay the inflation increase so as to minimise the need for redundancies arising from financial pressures.  

“Under Southend’s local terms and conditions, staff receive a ‘Gainshare’ annual reward if annual performance and quality targets are met, which is not paid to very senior managers. Staff received this unique payment this year as they did in previous years. 95 per cent of staff voted to be employed under the Trust’s local terms and conditions.”