MPs adopt BMA line on national pay
12 November 2012
MPs have reiterated BMA warnings about trusts’ attempts to break away from national NHS pay agreements.
MPs taking part in two separate Westminster debates on regional pay last week echoed BMA concerns about the increasing number of NHS trusts considering changes to national terms and conditions of pay.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham suggested there were 32 trusts across England looking to make changes, including the 20 in south-west England which have formed a consortium.
Mr Burnham told the Commons that localised pay deals were part of the government’s plans to create a free market in health, alongside the reforms in the Health and Social Care Act.
He said: ‘As the government [does] nothing, national pay is being unpicked and the NHS is fragmenting before our eyes, but perhaps that is all part of the plan — it is nothing to do with them; it is all due to a local decision.’
Threat to stability
Mr Burnham said all communities needed a full complement of clinical grades and professions, and ‘local or regional pay is not conducive to stable services’.
He added: ‘All the evidence suggests that a national approach to pay and conditions helps to reduce costs and risks to the NHS … There is also the hassle and distraction factor of every individual NHS employer or regional group going through the annual process of pay negotiation and setting.’
A number of MPs cited the BMA briefing on the issue, including Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, who said she could only agree with the BMA that regional pay was a ‘costly and time-consuming distraction’.
Stockton North Labour MP Alex Cunningham said the association had pointed out that moving away from national terms and conditions would have ‘a significant negative impact on the NHS, staff and patients’.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government was ‘not proposing an end to national collective bargaining’. He said: ‘We are not proposing the abolition of national pay scales, and current pay scales will not be cut’.
Continuity with Labour
He maintained that the government was continuing changes started by Labour, which gave foundation trusts the flexibility to adapt terms and conditions.
However, in the earlier Westminster Hall debate on regional NHS pay, secured by Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, health minister Anna Soubry appeared to endorse the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium.
She said she believed the consortium was ‘taking a mature approach’ and was being ‘responsible’.
The BMA is currently campaigning against regional pay, which it believes will undermine the shared values and culture of the NHS, lead to recruitment and retention problems, and distract staff from addressing the huge financial challenges facing the health service.