MPs of all three main political parties met Westcountry Ambulance Service bosses at Westminster today.
We had asked them to come to see us because of concerns that they are planning to abandon national pay agreements for their staff and introduce regional pay to the ambulance service.
We were very sympathetic to the financial pressures they are under because of the Government’s cuts and the recent loss of the contract for Hospital Transport Services to private companies. The changes the Government has introduced that have allowed private companies to cherry pick services, have made it more difficult for the ambulance service to realise economies of scale and cross subsidise between the services it provides. But we told them that we believed very strongly that cost pressures in NHS services need to be addressed nationally, not through the route of regional pay.
A year or so ago we faced a similar threat when most of the region’s hospitals proposed something similar. Then, the region’s MPs worked together to persuade them and the Government that regional pay was not the answer. A solution was found at national level.
Regional pay in the South West would mean lower pay, with the loss of staff to higher paying regions and knock on effect on our economy.
After the meeting, we agreed to write to the Health Minister, Dan Poulter, expressing our concerns at this move and urging him and national negotiators to sit down with the ambulance service and staff representatives to address the challenges.