HEALTH unions in Sunderland have lambasted plans to introduce regionally-determined pay for NHS staff.
Documents have shown that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is supporting proposals which would see workers in poorer areas of the country are paid less than those who live in more affluent locations.
If given the go-ahead the changes would see nurses, midwives and paramedics in the North East would be paid less than their South East counterparts.
In addition, the only Department of Health-sanctioned exemption from the regional pay scheme would be for managers employed to deliver Mr Lansley’s widely criticised NHS reforms.
The special arrangement would be necessary in order to “attract and retain high-calibre leaders and staff responsible for transforming delivery,” according to a submission to the NHS pay review body.
Ann Clay, Wearside health branch secretary of Unison, and based at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said members the proposals “wouldn’t wash” with members.
“We’ve been through huge changes to do with terms and conditions in recent years and it’s like this government is determined to unpick everything that has been done to improve things for NHS workers. In the North, we always suffer more and we are going to suffer in Sunderland. It’s bad news for us.”
Glenn Turp, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, said of the proposals: “It’s a health document that should be of concern to anyone who works in the NHS in the North East.
“But it also has ramifications for everyone who lives and works here, both in the public and private sectors, and regardless of whether or not you work in the health sector.
“In short, it is a recipe for institutionalised north-south discrimination on a truly industrial scale.
“Like all Government services, the NHS is under pressure to make cost savings.
“And all organisations – both public and private – inevitably review their payroll when they are looking to make savings, because this is where a significant amount of money is spent.
“Most public sector wage earners right across the country have had a pay freeze for the last two years.”
Conservative leader on Sunderland City Council, Robert Oliver, defended the plans, saying: “Market-facing pay in the NHS is not new as the pay agreement for the NHS which was inherited from Labour, Agenda for Change, allows pay to be varied in line with market forces.
“In fact, Labour introduced market-facing pay in the courts system in 2007 and has suggested regional benefits, which would mean a lower limit for people in the North East.
“Labour’s foundation trust legislation in 2003 allowed NHS Foundation Trusts to set their own terms and conditions for their staff.
“As announced in the budget, the Government is examining ways to ensure market-facing pay further helps growth and makes better use of public sector funds.”