16 January 2013
‘My view’ - Howard Catton blogs on the SW pay cartel
07 09 2012 | Howard Catton, RCN Head of Policy and International
The South West (SW) Pay Cartel have made some bold claims that moving to regional pay will safeguard jobs and services to patients, however the RCN's analysis of the current state of affairs in the SW identifies a fragile and weakened health economy. Using official Department of Health data sources, the RCN report identifies that the SW have the largest over 65 and 85 population. However, it is below the national average for the number of qualified nursing staff per 1,000 people.
In addition, since May 2010 the biggest drop in the number of qualified nursing posts for any region has been the SW, with over a 1,000 having been lost. The results of the 2011 NHS staff survey also highlight major causes of concern; 11 out of the 20 Trusts in the Cartel are in the bottom 20% of all Trusts across England for staff who feel satisfied with the quality of care they deliver. Across a range of scores staff clearly feel under pressure and neither valued or engaged by their Trusts. It is therefore no coincidence that reports to the Frontline First campaign from nurses in the SW about cuts to posts and services runs at a rate 50% higher than other regions.
Leaders in the SW have said they have no choice but to make cuts to staff pay and conditions and that this will protect patient care. The RCN says the opposite. Clearly there are other choices (waste, procurement and over £200m of PFI projects in the SW), however there is now also irrefutable evidence about the relationship between how staff feel and are treated and patient care. Happy staff, happy patients may sound glib but the delivery of quality, compassionate and dignified care is much more likely if that’s how staff feel they are treated.
There is a sad irony to the fact that SW Trusts have chosen to collaborate on a project that will further demoralise staff and undermine recruitment and retention rather than to work together on new models of delivering care closer to people's homes – a change that all leading commentators agree is the key long term and sustainable solution to protecting services to patients against a backdrop of tough financial challenges.