16 January 2013
My view - Howard Catton blogs on the compelling evidence that the Cartel’s cuts aren’t justified
20 09 2012 | Howard Catton, RCN Head of Policy and International
The South West Pay Cartel has claimed they have no choice but to cut staff pay, terms and conditions. Two weeks ago we produced a report that refuted this, showing that the workforce in the South West has already been depleted, analysing worrying results from the NHS staff survey, and raising our concerns that patient care would suffer if morale dropped further. However new evidence today from the Audit Commission exposes the scale of under spending across the SW SHA – a whopping £206.6m surplus.
The Cartel have said that by cutting pay, terms and conditions for everyone they will save 6,000 NHS jobs in the South West. Based on an average salary of £40,000, which is used by the Cartel in their own calculations, a surplus of £206m would pay for 5,165 jobs. Staff who have been told that it’s a choice between a cut to pay or losing their job will understandably feel angry, misled and let down.
Of course it is prudent to hold money back for contingencies. However as the RCN has said before, now is the time for investment in community and primary care and Trusts should be collaborating to develop new models that deliver care closer to patients homes.
The surplus in South West NHS trusts is nearly £30 million – the second highest of any region. The report also shows that only 11 trusts in the whole of England had a surplus of over £5 million and two of these are part of the cartel – North Bristol NHS Trust (£9m) and Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust (£6.2m). This is at the same time as the Cartel are saying they want to reduce the unsocial hours payments to staff who work weekends, nights and evenings to save on average £100,000 per Trust.
The one thing we can say with certainty is that if the Cartel continues with its plans the relationships with staff will become even more difficult and this will have an impact on patient care as well as recruitment and retention. Today’s report from the Audit Commission should be a wakeup call to local and national politicians in the South West to scrutinise the Cartel’s financial plans. Whilst voters understand that tough choices have to be taken when finances are tight they are unlikely to be as forgiving if services and jobs are cut when money is deliberately being withheld from frontline care.