UPDATE: One down, nineteen to go – NHS pay cartel begins to crumble

by - 13th November 2012, 12.24 BST

Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has pulled out of the South West NHS pay cartel.

The trust’s chief executive Tony Spotswood this morning sent the following email to staff: “Following careful consideration, the Trust’s Board of Directors has decided to withdraw from the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium.

“The Board is encouraged by the progress made in the national negotiations and wishes to see these continue as we strive for pay, terms and conditions that fully reflect the needs of the service going forward.

“Can I take this opportunity to reiterate the thanks expressed by the Board of Directors to all staff for their continued work and unstinting commitment.”

Speaking to UnionNews, one delighted union official said: “One down, 19 to go!”.

Unions in the region have fiercely opposed the pay cartel, which they fear will lead to up to 88,000 NHS staff facing a 15% pay cut, and changes to holiday and other entitlements. The trust would not say whether pressure from trade unions led them to make the decision.

The South West TUC’s regional secretary, Nigel Costley said: “We welcome the sensible decision Bournemouth has taken. I hope it’s the beginning of the break-up of a cartel that means bad news not only for health staff who face cuts to their pay and conditions, but for everyone who uses the NHS and fears us being put into the bottom division of the new pay league.”

UNISON regional organiser Mike Cracknell said: “We strongly welcome this decision and look forward to working together with the trust over coming weeks to ensure staff are supported in this time of change across the NHS. This move is a real step forward, and shows a genuine commitment to the hundreds of skilled healthcare workers, porters, nurses, midwives, technical experts and support staff who make our local hospitals and our NHS as a whole the great British institution it is.”

UNISON regional manager Helen Willis said: “Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed today that their staff can get on with their jobs without worrying about drastic pay cuts that will single them out as worth less than their colleagues in Birmingham or Canterbury – but may in the long run have ended up costing the Trust more not less.

“There is no doubt that the NHS is under attack from our current Coalition Government, and that there are real issues with funding. Our National Health Service faces real pressures with changing demographics as we age as a population as well as ongoing changes needed to deliver the best possible care to local communities in the best possible way.

“Following this decision, UNISON looks forward to working with the Trust to help them ensure that together the staff and their management continue to provide the best possible care to all their patients not only now but into the future.”

UNISON head of Health Christina McAnea said: “This is  the right decision and good news for patients and staff.  We hope that other trusts in the South West Cartel will also review their involvement in the consortium. UNISON will work with them to address the serious financial issues they are facing.”

Last week there were two debates in Parliament about the pay cartel and regional pay. Cornwall MP Stephen Gilbert has today reported the cartel to the Office of Fair Trading. Read more here.