UNION bosses have “vigorously” opposed a pay cut for nurses working overtime to cover busy periods and staff shortages.
Nurses who work overtime to cover busy periods at two hospitals serving people from Hartlepool and East Durham have had their hourly rates slashed by a cash-strapped health trust in a move that the Royal College of Nursing described as “completely unacceptable”.
Bank staff who are called upon by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have always been paid at the top of the pay band.
But as of today, that hourly rate will drop significantly, with nurses on one of the pay scales seeing their hourly rate drop from £20 to around £14.
That amounts to a 28 per cent cut, with nurses being informed of the changes when a letter was sent out on December 16.
The letter also said that the new pay rate will be applicable to any shifts after today which were booked in prior to the changes being implemented.
The NHS spends hundreds of millions of pounds a year on temporary staff, but has often been forced to find cover at the last minute with staffing resources having been cut.
Staff who qualified for extra shifts at the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees were made up of nurses who signed up to work additional shifts, or ones who are not affiliated to any health trust and can work as and when they are required.
Heather Whitton, the Royal College of Nursing’s union officer responsible for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The position of the Trust is completely unacceptable, and the RCN is vigorously opposing this move.
“Nurses have already been subject for pay freezes and pay restraint for some years, so this is a slap in the face to many hard-working nurses.
“We are also challenging other trusts in the region who are also proposing to adopt this policy.”
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust insists it has always paid bank staff from the top pay scale, and claims the hourly reduction will bring it into line with other trusts.
A spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “From January 1, 2015, the trust will bring itself into line with neighbouring trusts and pay staff employed through NHS Professionals on point 3 of the pay scale.
“When the trust first introduced NHS Professionals to hire bank staff it paid at the top point of the pay scale.
“However the challenging financial climate, and the recognition that it was out of line with neighbouring trusts, resulted in the decision to now pay at point 3 on the pay scale.
“Staff from other trusts are registered with NHS Professionals and our staff may be registered with other trusts’ NHS Professionals systems so to count the number of people working for the agency could be misleading.
“We looked at possible cost savings by estimating a total year’s impact from one month’s worth of the hours we booked with the agency to cover shifts because of leave, seasonal pressures, providing one to one care for high dependency patients, increases in workload and vacancies.
“We estimated the trust would save around £69,000 a year by paying the adjusted rate.”