STAFF at Dorset County Hospital are said to be feeling ‘anger and resentment’ after proposals to move towards regional pay were revealed.

A leaked document from the newly formed South West Pay Consortium has sparked fears that NHS staff in the South West could work longer hours for less pay if a regional system is introduced to replace the national terms and conditions.

The Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of 16 organisations to join the consortium, which was set up to help trusts ‘modernise’ pay, terms and conditions in the region.

Proposals put forward by the consortium include a reduction in annual leave entitlement, changes to sick pay, performance related pay and a review of enhanced payments for night, weekend and Bank Holiday working. Pharmacist Martin Shepherd, who has worked at the hospital for over 26 years, said employees at the Dorchester hospital were incensed by the proposals.

He said this was particularly because staff had already taken their fair share of hits to terms and conditions during the financial difficulties the hospital had experienced in recent years and had played a key part in getting it back to a sound footing.

Speaking on behalf of the Unite union, Mr Shepherd said: “Over the last couple of years the Trust has been in quite a dire situation and it’s down to the staff’s hard work that it has regained some kind of balance.

“Now we find they are going behind our backs to join a pay cartel that worsens our conditions, the staff are very angry about it. Staff are very aware and there is quite a degree of anger and resentment.”

Mr Shepherd said staff were also angry that the hospital, like the other trusts in the consortium, had paid £10,000 towards it – money that they feel could have been spent on patient care.

He also argued against the whole principle of regional pay, claiming staff in the South West delivered the same standard of care at the same cost as any other trust in the country – something that should be reflected with equal pay.

Mr Shepherd said: “As a hospital if you do a hip replacement in Newcastle or Plymouth you get paid the same so why should staff caring for that patient be paid any different?”

Mr Shepherd said unions were planning to raise a petition asking the Trust to remove itself from the Pay Consortium.

‘No decisions have been made’

The hospital’s director of workforce and human resources Mark Power said the board had agreed to be part of the consortium to look at pay, terms and conditions for non-medical staff.

He added: “We are interested to see whether there is scope for more appropriately and effectively recognising and rewarding staff for the contribution they make. “This is particularly important in light of the challenges we face now, and will continue to face in the future. We have to meet the demand for improved and more efficient services in the face of rising pay and non-pay costs and diminishing income, while also trying to protect and maintain jobs.”

Mr Power said although a number of suggestions had been made by the consortium, no decisions had yet been made and any proposals would be consulted on with unions.

He added: “We will carefully, and independently, consider any proposals that emerge from the consortium’s work before we decide whether we would wish to take them further.

“We reserve the right to withdraw from the consortium at any time.”