A UNION has warned a local NHS trust that could face a legal challenge over plans to cut staff mileage rates.
Unite claims that Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust staff, especially those based in rural parts of Northumberland, could be left hundreds of pounds worse off when they use their own cars to carry out their work.
From April 1, health visitors, midwives, community nursery nurses, district nurses and speech and language therapists will be paid 24p a mile – the public transport rate – and not the current 47p a mile.
But the trust has hit back at the criticism saying it is only bringing rates in line with other NHS staff, as well as offering employees the option of a lease car.
Unite regional officer Martin Wright said: “I am very disappointed that management are imposing this after a failure to agree with the trade unions.
“They are offering the lease car option for staff instead of paying the proper private mileage rate, but that may not be suitable or financially feasible for everyone.
“If the trust presses ahead with this, it could face a legal challenge for unlawful deduction of wages at an employment tribunal.
“Northumberland is a very rural county and many health staff need their cars to do their jobs.
“At a time when, petrol prices are at a record high and the cost of motoring entering the realms of the prohibitive, the trust’s plans are unacceptable.”
A trust spokeswoman said: “We have a duty as a public sector organisation to make sure that we deliver the best value for money for taxpayers.
“This is about aligning staff in the community business unit, who joined our organisation in April 2011, with the rest of the trust, including our team of community midwives, where the revised rates were introduced in April 2010.
“The revised travel reimbursement for staff who use their own cars for business covers the incremental cost of additional miles and, along with the offer of a lease car, adheres to national terms and conditions for staff working in the NHS.
“We are not suggesting staff use public transport.
“The implementation follows lengthy consultation with trade unions.”