A leaked document suggests that Chief Executives from hospitals in the south west are planning to introduce a strategy for radically overhauling the terms and conditions of employees to make the savings demanded by the coalition government. The proposals being considered centre around the reduction in unsocial hours payments; changing the incremental progression opportunities; increasing working hours; reducing annual leave; reducing pay (for those earning over £21000) and removing sickness absence enhancements. All of these proposals are a consequence of the government imposed Agenda for Change.
This will come as yet another blow to a service and staff body already being made to pay for economic mismanagement and ideological dogmatism by politicians as well as illegal casino economics by the banking industry. The report also suggests that a strategy will be put in place that will manipulate the message to the media, staff and local communities to enable the negativity of the proposals to be minimised. This will be seen by many as yet another cynical attempt to hoodwink communities and make public services pay for the failings of the private sector speculators.
Probably most concerning is the ‘last resort’ strategy in which terms and conditions of all staff will be ripped up and replaced by new contracts with new terms and conditions imposed. The document though does highlight the impact this could have and would prefer negotiation with unions; sweeteners and staff to be able to choose which modernisation strategies they would prefer e.g. reduction in hours or change of contracts subject to operational requirements.
The chief executives are proposing to work closely together in a sign of strength in their regional negotiations with unions and thus to reduce the liklihood of legal challenges. This consortium approach will also include colleagues in Mental Health and Social Enterprise trusts.
A more positive aspect of the report for patients though is that the intention is to protect the quality and safety of services and not allow them to be sacrificed. Staff engagement will thus have to be a priority and ‘mechanisms must be in place to monitor, maintain and, wherever possible, increase engagement levels’. This gives staff hope that the ‘last resort’ strategy can be avoided but only if radical concessions by them are made.
We will now have to wait and see how easily this right wing government get their way in once more undermining public sector workers by increasing private sector practices in the workplace. The reduction in pensions, pay and working conditions has been linked to the attempts by the Conservative Party to undermine the NHS by transferring the cost of health care onto the patient. Is this just another stealth attack or can we trust them? I know where my money would be placed but they may be telling us the truth when they say that they ‘love the NHS’. They love it so much they destroy a seventy year old institution that has saved millions of lives.
As Allyson Pollack identified in her article entitled How PFI is crippling the NHS:
‘This is what the public needs to know and is not being told.
First, the high costs of PFI debt charges means that the NHS can only operate anything from a third to half as many services and staff as it would have done had the scheme been funded through conventional procurement. In other words, for every PFI hospital up and running, equity investors and bankers are charging as if for two. Edward Leigh, the chair of a Treasury committee report into PFI, called investor returns the unacceptable face of capitalism.
Second, we can still afford to pay for universal healthcare – but only if we stop using NHS funds to prop up banks and equity investors.
Third, it is PFI deficits that are driving service closures, not patient demand or an ageing population. Service closures have nothing to do with service redesign.
Fourth, the government has now embarked on a new path, bringing in an Act that effectively abolishes the NHS, and which allows hospitals both to enter into more joint ventures with industry and to raise up to half their income from private patients. Two monsters are now unleashed – PFI and Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012.’
What next? of A race to the bottom anyone?