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Nursing staff in south west England must feel under siege. Their managers have embarked on an unprecedented attack on pay, terms and conditions that will leave them fearful for their futures. Nurses throughout the UK have reason to be concerned because, as Nursing Standard revealed recently, employers in other areas are preparing to follow suit.
The south west pay, terms and conditions consortium (SWC) upped the ante last week by issuing a 'discussion paper' containing an alarming set of 'options' that would diminish nurses' terms of employment while trying to placate them with a nebulous claim about saving jobs.
The unnamed authors make it clear in the paper that the estimated 6,000 saved posts is an 'optimistic evaluation and requires verification'. But that rather important caveat was omitted from the press release, in which the consortium's evangelical chair Chris Bown claims: 'Our analysis shows that up to 6,000 NHS jobs in the south west may be safeguarded by changes to staff pay, terms and conditions.'
The authors bemoan Agenda for Change (AfC) for failing to deliver better patient outcomes, and then they produce suggestions that fail to take into account the effect these may have on care quality. The amount of money spent on temporary staff would be cut (arbitrarily) by 10 per cent, but the authors do not reveal who would be doing the work instead.
The paper suggests that nurses would be asked to accept a longer working week - and have less annual leave in which to recover. And they can forget about going off sick when it all gets too much, because they would not be paid for the first two days. Staff who are made redundant would get less compensation, while those who are downgraded could lose their right to pay protection. It is frightening stuff.
The authors rubbish AfC without mentioning that the resulting pay and grading system was the product of collaboration between employers and staff. It was not foisted on managers, but designed by them. If managers want to negotiate a new deal, they should come up with a plan that is properly costed, and takes into account how patient demand will be met and quality of care maintained.
Editorial | August 29 2012 | vol 26 no 52
Reflections: A fragmented approach to pay
Nursing Standard is published every Wednesday by RCN Publishing Company Ltd, the publishing company of the Royal College of Nursing.
It seeks to promote professional excellence, and encourage creativity and innovation in nursing, midwifery and health visiting practice. Nursing Standard also aims to enhance nurses' and healthcare assistants' career development and to help them achieve and maintain a healthy and rewarding working environment. Nursing Standard is editorially independent and the opinions expressed are not those of the RCN or of the contributor's employing organisation unless specifically stated.