A CONTROVERSIAL pay consortium that has caused disquiet among staff at Dorset County Hospital is pushing forward with its plans.

The South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium has released two ‘discussion documents’ outlining the challenges facing the NHS and potential areas where savings can be made in the future.

The consortium involves 20 hospitals from across the South West including the Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust.

Concerns were expressed by staff at Dorset County Hospital earlier this summer when a leaked document revealed potential cuts to annual leave, changes to sick pay and a review of enhanced payments were being considered by the consortium.

The move sparked a petition urging the trust to pull out of the consortium.

Included in the latest publications under the banner of ‘staff cost reduction opportunities’ are reduced annual leave, extra working hours, withholding increments and a reduction in un-social hours allowances.

None of the ‘opportunities’ are firm proposals or recommendations at this stage and the documents are aimed at generating debate among staff and their representatives.

Pharmacist Martin Shep-herd, who has worked at the hospital for over 26 years, said staff at the hospital were disappointed over the lack of consultation before the trust joined the consortium.

Speaking on behalf of the Unite union, he said: “There was no consultation with staff or with recognised unions before the trust started to work with the consortium.

“This, and the nature of the work of the consortium, have undermined the trust the staff have in the management of the hospital and has created undue anxiety for the hospital’s dedicated workforce.

“Pay negotiations are still ongoing. We feel it would be inappropriate to enter into negotiations on a local or regional basis while these talks are ongoing.

“Whatever the true causes of the financial difficulties the NHS is currently experiencing, the rewards paid to staff are in no way over generous or unreasonable.”

The Dorchester hospital’s director of workforce and human resources Mark Power said the trust supported the aims of the consortium and was interested to see what proposals might emerge.

He added that any final decisions by the board will be considered to be in the best interests of the trust and its staff.