Nurses working for NHS Lothian have been denied the chance to boost wages while counterparts from England are put up in swanky hotels as they pocket triple-time bonanzas.
Wales-based firm Medinet, which provides staff to work in NHS hospitals, is being used extensively by NHS Lothian and is expected to receive £4.7 million from health board coffers this financial year – almost three times the amount forecast just six months ago.
Sources claim Medinet staff, the majority of whom also hold posts with NHS Trusts in England or Wales, have been boasting about making triple what they would from the NHS and are put up in posh hotels such as the Dalmahoy after being given free travel to Edinburgh, usually over weekends.
But the Evening News can today reveal an NHS Lothian plan to offer its own workers similar rates so that it could pay staff directly and save on overheads has been vetoed by the Scottish Government and the 13 other health boards.
Tom Waterson, Unison branch chair for Lothian, branded the decision “ludicrous” and said hundreds of local NHS staff could have benefitted, if given the go-ahead.
He said: “I’m disappointed. The idea was that as a temporary measure to get the waiting list debacle sorted, we would be paying our own staff the same as they would be earning if they worked for Medinet to do extra shifts, but we’d be cutting out the middle man.
“It is a solution that would have suited everyone, except the private sector. If Medinet do an endoscopy it costs £1200, but using our own staff it’s £800, even with the extra wages. It’s quite clear that the Scottish Government has changed its position on private healthcare, which they said they wouldn’t have in the NHS.
NHS Lothian can only offer nursing staff a maximum of time-and-a-half to work overtime, but bosses had prepared an application for a variation order, which would let it deviate from strict pay scales.
Around 30 Medinet surgical and nursing staff work in NHS Lothian hospitals every Saturday and Sunday.
NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison admitted he was disappointed the health board’s request had been turned down.
He said: “We made the case that we were an exceptional case and I firmly believe that. We did ask the question but I also understand that we have a responsibility for the NHS in Scotland, not just Lothian.
“I understand the concerns other health boards had – that if we paid our staff above the going rate, their staff would simply argue they wouldn’t do the same hours without the same premium payment.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It was the view of the other NHS board representatives that this variation order would have a detrimental impact on their waiting times initiatives, as other NHS boards are managing their waiting times within the standard terms and conditions.”
Medinet did not comment, but its website offers a “favourable remuneration package”.