A ROW has erupted at the Great Western Hospital after chiefs announced plans to demote nurses, eventually slashing their salaries by up to 20 per cent, a union has claimed.

A total of 62 band six theatre nurses could be forced to reapply for just 26 jobs while the rest would be downgraded automatically to band five level under proposals put forward by the Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

This would mean a pay cut of between 15 and 20 per cent, according to UNISON.

There would be no reduction in salaries for up to two years, however.

The workers are now threatening management with strike action and have so far refused to apply for the band six posts.

Roger Davey, chairman of the Wiltshire and Avon Unison Health branch, told the Adver nursing staff were furious at the situation.

“They are trying to make them reapply for their jobs but there are only about 25 jobs,” he said. “Those who are not successful will be downbanded.

“But they would still be doing roughly the same job for less money and they are very angry about it.

“If management don’t make significant reductions in the amount of staff they are downbanding and if they don’t listen to the concerns of the nurses the option would be for industrial action.

“Management have basically said that they don’t need so many band six nurses working in theatre. “But we believe it’s part of a cost-cutting exercise.

“This is part of a strategy to reduce labour costs and that’s the way they are going about it.”

A Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said the move would eliminate the unfair discrepancy in staff wages.

“We have been consulting with theatre staff about making some changes to the nursing structure within the department to ensure that all teams are structured in a way which supports high quality patient care,” he said.

“The existing structure needs to be updated to reflect modern best practice. “Staff are not at risk of redundancy, but it is important that roles and responsibilities are fair, clear and consistent across the whole department. “These changes will eliminate current inconsistencies in pay which are unfair for some staff.

“We hope Unison will play a constructive part in supporting us to modernise the service.”

Julie Connolly, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) South West regional officer, said the organisation was working closely with those affected by the proposed restructuring.

“The RCN has secured agreement with the trust to extend the consultation period to enable staff to give as much feedback as possible,” she said. “While we are engaging with the process, this is not the same as agreeing with these proposals. “We are working hard to ensure that the hospital retains enough experienced nurses to lead on patient care and safety, which is an absolute requirement.”