Suffolk: Mental health trust denies union’s claims of widening pay gap

New in-patient submissions have been suspended for three months at Southwold Hospital due to nurse s

New in-patient submissions have been suspended for three months at Southwold Hospital due to nurse shortages - Credit: IAN BURT

Health chiefs have rubbished claims by union officials that directors’ pay has risen while staff salaries have been slashed.

Public sector union Unison said total renumeration for two executive and four non-executive directors at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which runs mental health services in the two counties, had gone up in the past year.

In a statement Emma Corlett, Unison spokesman and a mental health nurse at NSFT, said in a statement: “Over the past year NHS frontline staff at NSFT have had a £756 pay cut forced on them by austerity imposed by the government.

“We have members experiencing real financial hardship, with some unable to put petrol in their cars at the end of the month and some relying on foodbanks.

“It is a slap in the face for staff, who provide care in the most difficult of circumstances, that those who should have been attempting to minimise the impact of cuts have slashed staff pay while receiving generous increases themselves.”

In response the trust said the figures included travel expenses for non-executives which had not been added in before, while the commercial director’s pay package included payments for a period where she was acting chief executive.

Andrew Hopkins, finance director, added: “We would emphasise that in 2013/14 all staff, except directors and consultant doctors, were paid the 1% nationally agreed pay award.

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“In addition all staff on incremental pay scales received their incremental pay rise if they weren’t already at the top of the scale. These are usually worth about 3-4% a year.

“Changes made nationally to the NHS pension scheme mean most staff now have to pay more contributions to the pension scheme than previously and this would reduce ‘take-home’ pay. These are national NHS decisions and not decisions made by the trust.”

At the trust’s AGM in Ipswich yesterday new chief executive Michael Scott said: “The Trust Service Strategy [an efficiency programme] was very challenging for some of our staff. Our staff engagement and morale is not good, we have to stand up and say that.

“My number one objective is to turn that around. We are turning a corner and things are improving.”