Trust asks consultants to drop SPAs
16 January 2013
The BMA is in negotiation with a hospital trust that has asked consultants to sacrifice part of their salaries to reduce its deficit.
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust wrote to consultants at the Royal Bolton Hospital, asking them to forgo 0.5 SPAs (supporting professional activities) on a voluntary basis from January 1.
Local BMA negotiators have urged members not to agree to the request until they have discussed the issue with management.
A letter to consultants from trust local negotiating committee co-chair Barry Miller says: ‘While there is broad support for the principle of a voluntary contribution, given the extremely difficult financial state of the trust, it was agreed that we should seek an urgent meeting to examine how we can collectively agree and resolve the issue. Therefore, our advice is not to sign or agree to this request.’
Dr Miller says the voluntary reduction in SPA time could have an impact on pension and redundancy package benefits.
He also questions why only medical staff have been asked to sacrifice their pay, and says the LNC would expect ‘all those on equivalent salaries to be asked to give proportionately’.
Talks between the LNC and management were due to take place this week.
A letter to consultants from then medical director and consultant physician Jackie Bene says action is needed to ‘reduce the organisation’s underlying deficit position of £1.3m to £1.5m per month’.
Dr Bene, who has since become acting chief executive of the trust, says: ‘In the light of the need to make savings, the trust is asking [consultants] to assist us by each agreeing to sacrifice 0.5 SPA.’
She claims £958,797 would be saved — equivalent to 30 jobs — if all 180 consultants agreed to the reduction, but she would not commit to those job savings being doctors.
The measure is the latest attempt to cut costs by the indebted trust, which has been ruled by health watchdog Monitor to be in ‘significant breach’ of the terms of its foundation trust status.
A trust spokesperson said the SPA request was one of ‘a wide range of proposals to help bring the organisation back into financial balance’.