Covert tactics to reduce nurse pay exposed by Health Service Journal

Government plans to use covert tactics to reduce nurses’ pay have been revealed in a leaked report on its strategy for the NHS.

The document forecasts a shortage of GPs and nurses, but a surplus of consultants by 2011, and has provoked anger from health professionals.

The draft Department of Health workforce strategy document, leaked to Health Service Journal, predicts a shortfall of 14,000 nurses, 1,200 GPs and 1,100 junior doctors.

But its prediction for 2008 to 2011 for the health service in England also showed there will be 3,200 extra consultants that the NHS cannot afford to pay, as well as 16,000 too many health professionals such as physiotherapists, health scientists and technicians.

Measures proposed in the document include changes to doctors’ gradings, local bargaining to reduce nurses’ pay and the deliberate use of unemployment to “create a downward pressure on wages”.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) described the thinking as a “yo-yo attitude” to planning.

Janet Davies, director at the RCN, said: “Quite simply, if reality matches the leak, then this is a bad news day for patients and for nurses.”

The leak comes amid news of extensive job cuts as the NHS tries to save money. And the document reveals that job losses in 2007 could amount to 2.7% of the workforce – nearly 37,000 jobs.

It also suggested the increased use of temporary staff and short-term contracts, something NHS employers have been attempting to reduce.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) consultants’ committee, said workforce planning in the NHS had been “woefully inadequate”.

“This latest thinking from the Department of Health is yet further evidence of poor assessment of how healthcare is provided and a failure to plan health services around patient needs,” he said.

But a Department of Health spokesman said it was about “stabilising” staff numbers.

He said: “It is, therefore, only prudent and sensible to analyse what the workforce make-up should be to meet those challenges.”

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