Southwest NHS pay cartel about to unravel

I’ve blogged variously about the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium (SWC or ‘cartel’) that was formed to try to bully NHS workers in the south-west into accepting worsened pay and conditions compared to the nationally-agreed Agenda for Change (AfC) framework.

The tactics of this cartel have been various and unsavoury in pursuit of its aim of reducing the income of its workers by over £6,000 in order to reduce its overall costs, including the evasion of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests in contravention of its own legal advice and a threat to sack and rehire all its staff if they refused to accept the erosion of their pay.

A finance director closely involved in the running of the cartel mocked its workers in an email to a journalist, and two Chief Executives of cartel Trusts were even revealed to be planning a ‘coup’ to replace the NHS Employers group responsible for national pay negotiations in order to achieve a fragmented NHS pay landscape that could be attacked piecemeal.

For the sake of NHS staff in the south-west and of everyone who believes in and loves the National Health Service, it’s been absolutely essential that the cartel’s activities be exposed and blocked. Staff and unions have been resolute in their resistance to the bullying, and adverse publicity around its actions and intentions have increased the pressure on the cartel, but its members have, for the most part, continued to pursue its aims.

However, it appears that this is about to change. A new FOI request indicates that 5 Trusts have decided to reject its proposals, and I’m assured both that the information is ‘cast iron’, that a 6th Trust has now joined them, and that it’s only a matter of days before the whole ill-advised venture collapses.

The list of the Trusts (out of 20 members at one point) rejecting the cartel so far therefore stands as follows:

  • Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
  • Dorset County Hospitals Trust,
  • North Devon Healthcare Trust
  • Poole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust &
  • Salisbury Foundation Trust)
  • University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

If the collapse of the cartel is indeed imminent, as it seems to be, then this is cause for great celebration for NHS staff and supporters both in the south-west and all over England.

And in a period (since Monday) where the NHS is under severe threat of privatisation because of the government’s new commissioning system and its underhand ‘secondary legislation’ manoeuvres, it’s fantastic to see that resolute, united resistance can defeat attempts to undermine and degrade the NHS.

It’s a grim time for the NHS at the moment, with a concerted, co-ordinated attack by government and media threatening its very core. But those of us who are committed to its survival should take encouragement and heart from this news and redouble our efforts to defend it.

If you’d like to make a practical contribution to this defence, please visit CCGWatch.org.uk and read how – and make a donation if you can. And whether you can or not, find any ways you can join the fight – and dive in!


  1. Has anyone noticed the Wirral CCG’s bid to increase several of its Board Members salaries (£100k+) by 5%? This was at a meeting at end of March – before they even formally becam legal. I don’t know what the Board’s decision was. Some people in this mess are clearly aiming to keep their heads well above water.
    I have pdf of these agenda papers (from Roy Lilley’s blog), but can’t attach here. It was 21 March meeting.

  2. Although the pay cartel may have collapsed (a good thing), it’s worth remembering that all round the country, “skill mix reviews” are taking place and staff have little option than to accept what’s handed down by way of (usually) lower grading or redundancy in favour of an untrained replacement. See also (on this topic) the recent R4 programme:


    1. Absolutely – the fight’s only just beginning, but it’s encouraging to see that resolute, united resistance can change things. Enjoy the ‘win’, gird up our loins and press on to the next one!

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