A BITTER war of words has broken out between the NHS trust which runs the Conquest and a leading union.
The GMB, or Britain’s General Union, launched an attack on East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust this week and called for an enquiry into spending at the financially under-pressure body.
It claims cash flow problems could see staff wages not being paid on time to more than 7,000 employees.
The union, which represents some but not all NHS workers, wants a cast iron guarantee from the trust’s hierarchy that workers will be paid on time and has appealed for an investigation into the overall financial situation.
Gary Palmer, GMB organiser, said: “GMB and other unions have been told by the trust that they currently have a serious cash flow problem. This has resulted in invoices they receive for services having to be juggled or settled late.
“While admitting being in severe financial trouble the trust said that they would always seek to prioritise staff being at the top of their list to be paid first during the on-going cash shortage and debt crises.
“This is an appalling situation and our members have real concerns that the root cause must be serious mismanagement which will see the current financial predicament only worsen, and that in its doing so that there is now a real potential of them discovering that they have not received their pay.
“How much more pressure can managers bring upon on already over worked and under pressured front line and ancillary NHS workers. They will now have to contend with worrying week in week out whether they will be able to pay bills, feed families and even travel to work if at the end of the month no wages will be paid.
“Perhaps it’s time for the trust to seriously consider the government’s new plan for it to be paired with a more successfully managed trust rather than join the line of failing trusts.
“This might assist in resolving the current severe shortage of nursing staff, health care assistants and rapid support teams at both hospitals.
“This could lead to saving on the expensive agency costs being incurred.”
However, the trust – which also runs the DGH in Eastbourne and services from a host of other sites across East Sussex - was adamant claims staff would not be paid were wide of the mark. It also suggested the GMB comment was little more than mischief-making and an attempt to attract NHS workers to switch unions by appearing pro-active.
A spokesman said: “The GMB statement is inflammatory and misguided and should be seen in the context of their plans to recruit new members or poach members from other trade unions.
“We announced in June that the Trust board had agreed a deficit budget for 2013/14 of £19.4 million and that a cash funding loan was received in June from the Department of Health to ensure we can continue to pay suppliers and staff.
“The total income available to the Trust has reduced this year by £30million.We are working with the NHS Trust Development Authority to find a solution that ensures that we can continue to provide high quality, safe and sustainable services to people in East Sussex.
“There is no prospect of staff not being paid.”