I’ve written before about the contempt shown by some executives of the NHS Trusts involved in the South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium (SWC), when they think nobody will find out, for the hardworking staff providing healthcare to patients and for the unions that represent them.
As I wrote back in September, Malcolm Cassells, Financial Director at Salisbury NHS Trust, wrote an email to a contact that conveyed a disregard for the wellbeing of health-workers, a sense that they should consider themselves lucky to have such ‘generous’ benefits, and a contempt for unions that are ‘not as stupid as they look’.
It appears that Salisbury may be a hotbed of such attitudes, mixed with a generous helping of greed and hypocrisy. A different FOI request has revealed emails between other executives from that Trust that betray a flippancy about the effects of the cartel’s aims on staff.
Flippant jokes between co-workers about their work have their place. However, that place really isn’t between senior executives who are looking to cut the payand benefits of around 63,000 health-workers who are not very well-pad to begin with – and especially when those same executives have awarded themselves not only a pay-rise but also a bonus, and all this at a time when their Trusts are supposedly facing financial pressures of such severity that the only way to be ‘sustainable’ is by cutting pay for nurses, healthcare assistants and other low-paid, hard-working people.
The first of the emails is from then-COO (Chief Operating Officer) of Salisbury NHS, Peter Hill, to the Chief Executive of the Trust at that time, Caspar Ridley. It commented on an email from Mark Wareham, a Unison rep at Salisbury, to Mr Ridley challenging an accusation by Ridley that unions had caused staff ‘unnecessary anxiety’ by publicising what the cartel was doing:
In other words, ‘This is a rant, and if you bother answering you’ll just trigger a series of rants’. Was it a rant by Mr Wareham?
If you wish, you can read it in full here, but it seems very clear that it was not. His email makes the following points, in emphatic but reasonable language:
- that staff have every reason to feel anxious about the formation of an organisation whose express purpose is to reduce how much they earn and increase how many hours they have to work to get it, in contravention of ongoing national discussions.
- that Mr Wareham has been advised by at least one Trust of intentions to cut staff salaries by 15%
- that staff and unions were not consulted about the formation of the cartel or its aims and does not accept them
- that such moves will inevitably impact on staff morale and hence on patient care
- that attempting to carry out its moves belies any notion of ‘partnership working’, even if the organisation’s spokespeople say otherwise, and is in fact a unilateral attempt to impose regional pay
- that the unions will be ready to enter discussions if Salisbury Trust exits the cartel
None of this constitutes a rant or ‘diatribe’, even if Mr Wareham makes his points emphatically, as indeed he should – in which case Mr Hill’s comment is merely insulting and dismissive, and certainly not in keeping with the supposed desire of SWC executives to ‘partner’ with unions and staff to find a solution.
And this is very bad news for NHS staff at Salisbury Trust. Caspar Ridley resigned the position of CEO after only 6 months, and the Interim CEO is…
Our next little snippet is from an email exchange between Salisbury HR Director Alan Denton and his deputy, Jenny Hair. Commenting on coverage of the cartel by the BBC, and attaching his comments to a Unison newsletter sent by the same Mark Wareham to his members, Mr Denton starts off with a message which, although brief, speaks volumes about his attitude:
‘It’s terrible this pay cartel thingy isn’t it – whose idea was that, then?‘
Ms Hair’s response is fairly bland – she seems to attract flippancy rather than spout it, as we’ll see shortly – as she mentions articles in the press as well as on the BBC, and comments that the language in a leaked cartel paper wasn’t very ‘discrete’ (sic):
But Denton’s response is in a similarly light-hearted vein to his first message:
“I presented it at the Chief Execs meeting with my posse as Steve was ill. Alternatively, I deny all knowledge of it, and don’t know what you are talking about.”
Remember, this is a man talking about taking potentially over £6,000 each from the pockets of over 60,000 poorly-paid people – and advising that he wrote and presented one of the first papers about how to do it. But ‘terrible thing, this cartel thingy‘ and ‘presented it..with my posse..alternatively I deny all knowledge of it and don’t know what you are talking about‘ show a quite remarkable levity about the whole matter. Again, you can view the entire exchange here should you wish to.
I’m heartened that Mr Denton has a ‘posse’, in spite of his attitude. Sadly, he’s not finished yet. In another exchange with Ms Hair, this time from November 2012, he again forwarded an email from Mark Wareham – this time a 5-month-old one about a petition against the cartel – along with a quite impressively facile and insensitive comment:
Mr Denton – the man who is looking to cut the incomes of over 4,000 staff at Salisbury, and who helped author a plan to cut it for over 63,000 across the region, thinks pay-cuts and petitions against the organisation planning them are a matter for humour.
Perhaps Ms Hair is just so stunningly gorgeous that men lose their heads around her and start cracking inappropriate jokes to try to impress her. Far more likely that Denton, Cassells and their new Interim CEO Peter Hill are just being themselves and evincing a deep-seated contempt for the people who actually do the work of providing healthcare at their Trust – and in the other 18 Trusts that are still part of the cartel.
Given the exchanges outlined above, and the emails between SWC CEO Chris Bown and another CEO that discussed bringing down NHS Employers, the organisation responsible for national pay negotiations, in order to achieve their pay-cutting goals more quickly, it’s reasonable to conclude that many SWC executives are utterly disconnected from the real-life situation and problems faced by the people working under them.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.
You see, Alan Denton and Ms Hair, as well as Peter Hill, Chris Bown and Tony Spotswood are all on salaries of well over £100,000 a year, so it must be hard for them to imagine what it’s like to face an income that won’t cover even the essentials.
Not only that, but the FOI reveals that – while imposing pay-freezes on their staff and looking for ways to cut their pay – the executives of Salisbury NHS opted to award themselves both a pay-rise and a bonus. As notes fed back to the Trust board from an ‘Informatics Cascade Brief’ on 27 Sep 2012 comment:
It appears that the revealed emails are indicative of a severe lack of empathy and understanding of the lives and troubles of ordinary people among executives at Salisbury – a problem that is probably widespread throughout the SWC.
Public statements by the cartel say one thing, but what is said out of the public gaze conveys something else entirely.
Perhaps they can’t help themselves. They do say the truth will out, after all.