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Cornish Doctors 'Should Accept Pay Cut Or Be Sacked'

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9:30am 16th July 2012
(Updated 9:30am 16th July 2012)

It is claimed Cornish doctors and nurses could be sacked unless they agree to drastic changes to their pay and conditions.

Leaked documents show bosses at the Royal Cornwall Hospital and more than a dozen other places in the southwest are considering the move.

New terms could include pay cuts of up to 5%, an end to overtime for nights, weekends and bank holidays, and reduced holiday leave, the Sunday Times said.

These measures could affect up to 60,000 health professionals in the South West of England, where chief executives have acknowledged they would need to act "in unison."

The document was prepared by 19 NHS bosses to identify how to maintain patient services in the face of multimillion-pound budget cuts.

Graham Webster from Health Initiative Cornwall said, "We already have trouble recruiting doctors for the Casualty service at West Cornwall hospital. We already can't fill vacancies for physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Those people will want to go where the money is and that, unfortunately, is not going to be here in Cornwall."

Nobody from the Royal Cornwall Hospital wanted to be interviewed but, in a statement, said that it was part of proposals to change the way they "reward" staff: "Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has agreed to work with other organisations in the South West to explore different ways of rewarding and incentivising staff that will lead to better healthcare services.  No proposals have yet been put forward but the RCHT Board is interested in at least exploring the options available.

"It is too early to say what the outcomes or recommendations will be but regular information will be provided to staff and staff side representatives about the Consortium meetings. Clearly no action will be taken without full engagement with staff."

But Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told Sky News the suggestion of making staff redundant was "sheer madness".

"What we're seeing here is signs of an NHS... in distress. [It's] a chaotic approach really, to managing these cuts. What we have is a document from the South West where 19 NHS organisations are talking about some pretty drastic steps," he said.

"This really is no way to go about things. It's in open defiance of the Deputy Prime Minister who has said there won't be regional pay in the national health service. So the Government urgently needs to get a grip."

The Sunday Times claims at least two other hospitals in Surrey and Manchester have considered the plans, but health chiefs in the South West suggest working together in order to prevent being "singled out" and unable to take on the unions.

They believe that by co-operating they will be able to overcome an "extremely hostile" reaction to the steps, especially if they take the "last resort" of sacking all staff and re-engaging them on less favourable terms, the paper says.

Earlier this month, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said NHS spending to 2015 will be the tightest four-year period in the past 50 years amid the biggest reorganisation of the health service by the Government.

Monitor, the independent regulator for NHS foundation trusts, has estimated that organisations with a turnover of £200m will need to produce savings of around £9m a year for each year until 2016/17 to remain in financial health.

The chairman of the South West pay, terms and conditions consortium steering group said the NHS faces a time of unprecedented challenge, both financially and in the provision of services to patients.

Chris Brown, who is also chief executive of Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, did not deny doctors and nurse could be sacked, but said: "As these plans take shape I would like to reiterate our commitment to continue to seek to work positively and constructively with staff as well as unions.

"At the heart of the consortium's work is a shared desire to preserve and protect employment while safeguarding high quality health services for the populations we serve into the future."

9:30am 16th July 2012

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