STAFF at Salisbury District Hospital could face pay cuts and altered terms and conditions of employment, according to unions.

The hospital has joined a consortium of 16 south west trusts which is looking at the possibility of tearing up existing pay agreements and replacing them with new contracts.

Among the schemes being considered are reductions in unsocial hours payments, reviewing annual leave entitlements particularly for long-serving staff, increasing working hours and removing sickness absence enhancements.

Pay levels will also be reviewed and salaries may be more closely linked with performance.

Currently the hospital spends 70 per cent of its budget on staff salaries.

A draft document seen by the Journal says the trusts in the consortium would aim to reduce the wage bill to 60 per cent of overall costs.

Healthcare staff have nationally agreed terms and conditions but the document says they may need to be replaced with local agreements.

Unions fear this could lead to existing contracts being terminated and staff forced to accept new terms and conditions if they want to keep their jobs.

“This could have a massive impact on staff morale and have a knock-on effect on patient care,” said Mark Wareham, who is representing the eight unions who represent hospital workers.

“We cannot see how our members will accept cuts to their terms and conditions. They have already been forced to pay for staff parking and now they are being hit with this.”

The hospital, which has 3,860 full and part-time staff, has paid £10,000 to join the consortium, which includes hospitals from Gloucester to Cornwall.

Unions say they will demand answers about the consortium and campaign against any cuts.

“These employers are wrong to believe that cutting pay is the solution to financial challenges,” said chairman of the Joint Union Health Officers’ Forum Dorothy Fogg. “This scheme will divert money from patient care, destabilise the workforce and damage the local economy.”

A hospital spokesman said: “The trust has agreed to work with other organisations in the south west to explore different ways of rewarding and incentivising staff that will lead to better healthcare services.

“It is very early days in the discussions, but the focus is on improving quality of care and productivity in the NHS. It is also about how we can better use public money and the paybill, which is up to 70 per cent of overall spend, to achieve improvements in patient care at a time when efficiency savings must be made.

“The group will work closely with trade unions and staff-side representatives and seek their involvement on any proposals that are developed.”