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Hospital pay cartel will lead to a 'bidding war for staff'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 26, 2012

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A Westcountry MP has accused the Government of encouraging hospitals to wage a bidding war for staff with the creation of a regional pay cartel.

Alison Seabeck, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, said establishing the organisation would inevitably mean highly skilled medics leaving for better paid jobs elsewhere.

Her warning came as proposals for the South West Pay Consortium (SWC), which includes hospitals in Cornwall, Plymouth and Exeter, continue to anger staff.

YesterdayUnison presented a petition to the board of the Royal Cornwall Hospital condemning its membership.

The SWC say it is merely trying to address economic challenges. But critics claim its sole aim is to drive down pay and conditions.

Mrs Seabeck said that an exchange in the House of Commons over NHS pay involving Conservative health minister Daniel Poulter was deeply worrying.

When pressed about the potential impact on staffing levels, he suggested hospitals could pay more than the national average to attract staff.

This, said Mrs Seabeck, raised the prospect of a bidding war for staff.

"The minister's response to questions on regional pay were extraordinary and shows that this government doesn't understand neither the consequences nor the risks of pursuing regional pay," she said.

"In the South West, where the pay consortium has been set up to reduce pay and conditions, nurses are already seeking to leave the area which will create a skills shortage in our local health service.

"I've spoken to nurses who are actively looking to relocate out of the South West because of the changes to local pay."

In his responses, Dr Poulter said the Government would retain national pay frameworks, such as the existing Agenda for Change in the NHS, but only "as long as they remain fit for purpose."

He also said that "local pay flexibility allows additional rewards to be paid to staff in areas with workplace shortages."

However, Mrs Seabeck dismissed this as proof that "neither he nor his department" had considered the true impact of the cartel.

The SWC says no decisions have been made, but recently released documents do detail a number of "staff cost reduction potential opportunities.

A spokesman said: "Member organisations are exploring ways in which pay, terms and conditions can support stable and sustainable organisations, that are better able to guarantee employment and health services, into the future and in the face of unprecedented challenges."

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