CONTROVERSIAL moves to cut pay of NHS staff in Gloucestershire have been backed by the Government.
The South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium, of 20 NHS Trusts including Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust and 2Gether NHS Foundation Trust, propose to impose longer working hours, cut salaries and leave.
It came in for a barrage of criticism at Westminster as Labour accused the Government of using the region as a "laboratory" for regional pay.
Former Labour Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said more than 88,000 NHS staff in the South West would be affected.
He said: "Based on the initial proposals, the trade unions, royal colleges and other organisations representing staff estimate that nurses and other NHS staff in the South West could face a 15 per cent pay cut, as well as changes to their holiday and other entitlements. The cartel has threatened to sack and re-employ staff to force through its plans.
"I have to tell the Minister that, in my more than 17 years in this place, I have never received as many letters and e-mails expressing such anger and dismay as I have on this issue."
Health minister Anna Soubry said: "I want to talk about the financial situation in the national health service.
"The South West consortium faces a stern choice. It can either continue to ignore the problem, and hope that it will go away, or it can face the challenge, share it with its staff and their representatives, and work in partnership to achieve the best outcome for everyone concerned, especially patients.
"I believe that the south-west consortium is taking a mature approach. It published two discussion documents in August, setting out the scale of the financial and service challenge that it faces. It has not made any decisions.
"It has included options affecting all staff, including doctors, so that every opportunity is considered, no stone is left unturned, and there are no sacred cows. I believe that that is a responsible approach."
A Labour amendment calling on the Government to block the regional pay move was defeated by 292 votes to 226.