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MP Stephen Gilbert calls for OFT inquiry into NHS 'pay cartel'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 13, 2012

Stephen Gilbert

MP Stephen Gilbert calls for OFT inquiry into NHS 'pay cartel'

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A competition watchdog has been asked to investigate whether a plan to set up a so-called NHS pay cartel in the region is illegal.

A total of 20 NHS organisations have joined the South West Pay Consortium (SWC) which aims to examine future financial challenges.

However St Austell and Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert has called on the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) to launch an inquiry.

The Liberal Democrat MP, who is focused on the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust's (RCHT) membership of the SWC, said he believed that the organisation could well be acting illegally by signing up.

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He said: "The Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust and the other health trusts across the south west in this cartel wants to have their cake and eat it.

"The so-called 'consortium' is hiding behind the NHS badge while riding roughshod over national NHS pay and conditions.

"They are claiming rights as autonomous, independent providers but they are then colluding together as a cartel to fix terms and conditions and their wage costs.

"I believe that this is a potentially illegal cartel and I have asked the OFT to investigate whether what these trusts are doing is within the rules of the NHS."

The SWC, which includes hospital in Exeter, Taunton and Plymouth as well as other NHS trusts, has not released any firm proposals as yet.

Earlier this year, SWC "scoping" documents suggested a number of "staff cost reduction potential opportunities".

These included asking people to work extra hours for no extra pay, reducing unsocial hours allowances and reducing sick pay for new starters.

Unions from across the health spectrum have condemned the thrust of the SWC's work, saying it is an excuse to ditch hard fought pay agreements and drive down pay and conditions.

A spokesman for the SWC refused to comment on Mr Gilbert's call.

An RCHT spokesman also refused to comment specifically on Mr Gilbert's actions, but added: "Like all NHS Trusts across the UK, RCHT faces serious financial and operational challenges, both now and in the future. In considering how we can maintain high quality services and protect employment we have to look at every area where we may be able to make efficiencies."

A spokesman for the OFT said they would consider all submissions.

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  • John1000  |  November 14 2012, 6:58AM

    OK - so the private sector will do a better job; just like the private sector organisation that has closed 10% of our community hospital beds to save money and just the like the SERCO out of hours provider and the wonderful services it provides. Most health economists who look at the NHS agree that for what we spend on it we get high outcomes. Whilst RCHT has more and more patients going through its doors, it is having its budget reduced in real terms. Anybody who has been on the wards will see nursing staff rushed off their feet and under enormous pressure. Staff in the NHS have now had a three year pay freeze, have increased their pension contributions between 3% and 5% - total impact when you look at inflation is a pay cut of between 12% and 15%. Now a pay cartel to further reduce pay on top of at least two more years if flat or below inflation pay increases. This will be the straw that will break the camel's back and in the short term will cause huge industrial unrest and in the long term will cause many to leave the NHS. All the staff I speak to are just about at the end of their tether with a management that says staff are our most important asset and yet continue with this kind of initiative. Before continuing with the government led initiative the Trust should look at its own staff survey and weigh up the financial benefits of reducing pay terms and conditions versus the loss of goodwill, unclaimed additional hours worked that will evaporate under such a proposal. This really is a ridiculous proposal being led by an increasingly out of touch board. The board should focus on getting the most out of its most important asset not grinding it into submission and out of the Trust.

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  • eyeopener  |  November 13 2012, 8:48PM

    @"@Whistle9339 "Oh dear me. It is so sad when some resort to personal attacks!" I have to be honest if I hadn't seen some of your comments in print, I would not have believed them. "Finally, I am all in favour of everyone getting a fair wage but not if this means that the existing divide between well off Public Sector workers and poor Private sector staff is made wider." In other words if, as you call it "the existing divide" between Public Sector workers and poor Private sector staff becomes wider; then we should NOT pay Public Sector workers a fair wage!!! Others might have looked at paying anyone disadvantaged a fair wage to close the "divide." "However, I would reiterate that nurses have a job and should be grateful." Why should nurses be grateful? Are the bankers who caused this criris grateful, even though they have been the cause of many businesses folding, and consequent unemployment? Are the multinationals grateful when they make their profits here and then export those same profits overseas to avoid paying tax? No, according to you, those who studied hard to gain the requisite skills and now work long hours on low pay trying to nurse others back to health or mitigate a painful old age should be grateful instead. What you and others like you want is not the most prosperous possible economy, but an economy in which you can enjoy all the nations resources and then through paying low taxes do it at the least possible cost to yourself, evn if that means a poorer health service as a result. The irony is that for all your complaining about unions, if you were employed by people like yourself; you would be off to the nearest employment tribunal, assuming you hadn't managed to get that abolished first.

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  • eyeopener  |  November 13 2012, 8:30PM

    @Whistle9339 Well said! Here here! Why should Cornwall hospitals patients enjoy the same standard of service as the rest of the country? In every other sector Cornwall workers earn less than the rest of the country. Surely they should expect poorer health care too? People live or migrate to Cornwall for the amazing way of life - this is the price one must pay. If you want to avoid feeling a teeny bit envious of people doing a standard job like nursing then move away to where pay and conditions are better. If you like the Cornwall lifestyle then stop moaning and just hope you never fall ill. You really should not be allowed to have your cake and eat just because you are a nurse on a G Grade or less. Indeed if you are a nurse on a G grade or less isn't there something wrong if you can afford cake at all?"

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  • JonnyGlenholt  |  November 13 2012, 6:39PM

    So why did you vote in favour of regional pay in Parliament this week, Mr Gilbert? Hypocrite Libdem again.

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  • reiwruwiou  |  November 13 2012, 3:53PM

    I don't think that public sector pay has been inflated. I think that private sector pay has been deflated. As for unions, they are payed to represent their members, in the same way that you may pay a barrister to represent you in a court case. If people in the private sector chose to waive this representation to save money on union dues, they risked being totally at the mercy of employers who wish to drive up profit margins by cutting wages. As for "Owing nurses and clerical staff nothing", say that after your life has been saved by the prompt action of a nurse, and your sick pay has been processed and paid into your bank account on time by the people in HR (or the DSS if you aren't in work.) True, they all get paid to do it, but you would soon notice if they stopped doing it and did something else instead. Even the most humble pen pusher performs a function, and if they stopped there would be knock-on effects, no matter how small. It is true to say that hostility between the private and public sectors is being whipped up - how else could a government sell cutting the salaries of doctors, nurses, care workers, etc to the voters? What better way to sell privatisation than by rubbishing the public sector? Now, are we all happy with the way that the railways turned out? Think on...

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  • eu_blues  |  November 13 2012, 3:30PM

    They are biding their time until the greedy unions distort reality with their members and their members finally hang themselves. Less sulking and more fighting to maintain their roles in the Private Sector. Do you really think I would be so in favour of this if my extense expereince of the RCHT and NHS wasn't so negative? Whistle9339 Your fixation with unions doesn't help. Yes, unions to a degree cause discourse from within the NHS. There's a fixed agenda for change that's taking place from within the NHS through government. Unions have always played the game of musical chairs to suit the current conditions/climate within public service bodies, but it comes as no surprise to me that unions will be lining themselves up to maintain their roles in the greater private sector to come. Who ultimately sets the ground rules for all of this, not the unions, that's for sure. They are just pawns being moved into position when required. No. The ground rules for change start at policy level in governmental departments. For me, their shouldn't be market force at work in the NHS at all. But human life is now cheap. We owe nurses and clerical staff nothing!! They have a job which they get paid for doing. When they applied for the posts they said that they love caring for people, they are positive individuals and are committed to move patient care forward. Now they have their feet under the table they behave like kindergarten children. Whistle9339 We owe nurses and clerical staff nothing!! Come on. What I totally disagree with is the blatant inflating of public service pay to increase hostility within the Private Sector which causes all the in fighting we see. Once again, its government that allows this to occur. When you introduce a market led system into healthcare, that's what you get, a kindergarten mentality from all corners of the NHS spectrum. Some people in the power structure enjoy watching a system like the NHS crash and burn from within, what could be better. Turff out the old to bring in a new sense of common purpose.

  • oldjamaica  |  November 13 2012, 3:04PM

    when are we going to have an enquiry into Mr Gilberts exorbitant expenses(second highest in the UK)?

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  • Whistle9339  |  November 13 2012, 2:44PM

    @eu_blues Fully agree that private sector firms are waiting in the wings. You must ask yourself why. They are biding their time until the greedy unions distort reality with their members and their members finally hang themselves. Less sulking and more fighting to maintain their roles in the Private Sector. Do you really think I would be so in favour of this if my extense expereince of the RCHT and NHS wasn't so negative? We owe nurses and clerical staff nothing!! They have a job which they get paid for doing. When they applied for the posts they said that they love caring for people, they are positive individuals and are committed to move patient care forward. Now they have their feet under the table they behave like kindergarten children. I always write to the Chief Execuituve IF a member of staff has gone above and beyond their job description - so far this year I have written only two letters yet I have had contact with well over 100 staff at RCHT - sad indictment of RCHT me thinks

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  • eu_blues  |  November 13 2012, 2:31PM

    Finally, I am all in favour of everyone getting a fair wage but not if this means that the existing divide between well off Public Sector workers and poor Private sector staff is made wider. Whistle9339 A two-tier pay structure that's been created to bring the Public Sector into dispute with Private Sector staff. Once again, its deliberate and coercive of governments to bring in a two-tier pay structure that favours one for the other, thus causing a knock on effect within the NHS. It seems obvious to me that the powers that be want a clash between the Private Sector and the Public Sector. I know which one will ultimately win in the future. The one that provides the cheapest form of so-called care in the NHS. The powers that be have been mudding the waters of the Public Sector for some considerable time. Too many private sector firms waiting in the wings for the day when they can take full control managing pay structures and contracts. Bill, fear not, you will still be cared for and hospitals will not close!!"Whistle9339 Considering that RCH is now a foundation hospital, this will further put pressure on how the hospital will be able to function against other hospitals which will become foundation based in the UK. Customer based care will suffer even more, thanks in part to those in the power structure who want a market orientated system, where hospitals fight for contracts and money. This further erodes customer care within the system, creating a highly evil money driven private care structure. Just watch out about the care bit Bill. Some hospitals take a very negative view to elderly patients. Just look at the amount of people being put on the Liverpool Death Pathway. The whole NHS is being dismantled every year for a totally privatised health care system that only benefits private sector business and charites. The Third Sector rules.

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  • Whistle9339  |  November 13 2012, 1:49PM

    Oh dear me. It is so sad when some resort to personal attacks! Firstly, It is staff like @cornishbill that were no doubt members of militant public sector unions that persistently prevented Trust Chief Executives like Brian Milstead and Lezli Boswell from making changes which would allow money in the Trust to be spent efficiently. Thank God the unions have lost most of their power. Secondly, public sector moral being low?? Why?? They have better pay than most private sector employees, they have better pensions than private sector employees and they think they should automatically expect respect from the public. The public sector is deluded. We are in a Labour induced recession and we need to tighten the belt. This means that staff need to accept pay cuts if that means that services can be preseved. I am fed up with miserable looking staff at RCHT - you have a job!!!! Either behave like an adult and a professional or leave if you think the grass is greener elsewhere. Thirdly, @DoUntoOthershas a valid point. There should not be a national minimum wage. If you want to be a high flyer then move to the big cities; if you want a fantastic way of life for you and your children then move to or stay in Cornwall. Finally, I am all in favour of everyone getting a fair wage but not if this means that the existing divide between well off Public Sector workers and poor Private sector staff is made wider. However, I would reiterate that nurses have a job and should be grateful. Clearly, the poor attitude of some shows that they really don't care about patients and lack self--pride. I fully support the call for salary differentials throughout the country if this means that we would only be left with nurses who actually WANT to be at RCHT and who actually care about the cornish community

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