DORSET County Hospital’s board has defended its decision to join a regional consortium looking at staff pay, terms and conditions.

The Dorchester hospital, along with the Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, is among 20 trusts across the south west that are looking at ways of reducing pay to make sure it can provide a sustainable service in the future.

The move has proved unpopular with staff, who have called on the hospital to pull out of the consortium.

Director of workforce and human resources Mark Power addressed the hospital’s council of governors to explain why the board had agreed to join the consortium.

He said the trust, which employs over 3,000 staff, was faced with a £94million pay bill, which was set to rise as a result of pay increments while also being faced with a decrease in income in the coming years.

Mr Power said: “It is about making sure we have an affordable pay, terms and conditions system in the future and it’s also about trying to protect jobs as much as we can.”

He stressed that the trust would not be bound by any proposals or recommendations made by the consortium.

Mr Power faced questions from governors over fears that changes to conditions in the south west could push staff elsewhere and leave the region with a second rate workforce.

He responded that almost all trusts were looking at changes of this nature.

Patient governor Andy Hutchings said it was clear the negotiations with the consortium were having a negative impact on staff morale.

He said: “When people come into the hospital I want them to a have happy staff who are happy with their working conditions.

“They are very worried about this and are extremely worried about their future.”

Trust chairman Jeffrey Ellwood responded: “We are heading towards a cliff and in three years time we are going to go over the cliff.

“When your costs exceed your income you are in trouble.”

He added: “We are looking to see if by any chance a group of brains can come up with a solution that our board cannot.”