Last week I visited constituents and schools, and I addressed Harnham’s Neighbourhood Association, the Southern Wiltshire Area Board and Salisbury United Reform Church’s 350th anniversary celebration.
I visited several businesses in the Winterbournes and elsewhere, canvassed local headteachers’ feedback on the government’s plans for reform of examinations, held two surgeries and met with local farmers.
I also attended Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust’s AGM and followed up with my quarterly meeting with the leadership of Salisbury District Hospital. This gave me the opportunity to discuss the concerns expressed to me by some hospital staff about their future pay and conditions.
Some have propagated the worst possible inference from the decision of the Trust to invest a modest sum of money to join with other hospitals in the region to evaluate their options for saving money.
Despite the fact that the government has ring fenced money for the NHS and sought to make commissioning services more locally responsive to GP-defined needs, the fact remains that cost pressures within the NHS mean that savings need to be found each year.
SDH has risen to the challenge but, when two thirds of their outgoings are on staff costs and income is not increasing, all options have to be considered.
I urged the leadership to maintain the basic pay of nurses and staff but I do think it is fair to examine the possibility of some variances to special payments and conditions – is it right that some staff have six-and-a-half weeks paid holiday and receive bonuses when they are off sick?
I did impress upon the leadership that it is important that pay increases for themselves should be resisted and they readily agreed. I was also greatly reassured by the message sent out to all staff on September 20 in which the management promised to ‘protect current basic pay’.
In these difficult economic times when increases in government spending are necessarily meagre, it is fortunate that, in Luke March and Peter Hill, we have experienced and considerate managers who will take fair steps to secure competitive pay packages for all staff, whilst ensuring that the hospital’s finances remain on a sustainable path.