CONSULTANTS at the Royal Bolton Hospital have been asked to sacrifice some of their pay to help pay off the Trust’s deficit and cut the wage bill by £17.5 million.

Letters were sent to all consultants who work for Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, asking them to agree.

By getting the Trust’s 180 consultants to sacrifice some of their pay, hospital bosses are hoping to make a saving of £958,797, which is the equivalent of 30 jobs. The letter came from the Trust’s then medical director and practising consultant Dr Jackie Bene, who is now the acting chief executive.

It said: “The need for turnaround is urgent and we need to take action immediately to reduce the organisation’s underlying deficit position of between £1.3 million and £1.5 million per month.

“In light of the need to make immediate savings the Trust are asking the consultant body to assist us by sacrificing 0.5 SPA.”

This would mean giving up being paid for two hours spent completing Supporting Professional Activities, for example doing audits.

It comes weeks after the Trust announced that it would be cutting up to 500 jobs, including frontline staff and that there would be compulsory redundancies.

The Trust announced the start of a 90-day consultation over the cuts on November 14.

But the consultation had to be re-started on December 14, after unions challenged the Trust about the amount of information that had been provided Just days before Christmas, around a dozen members of clerical staff were told that their temporary contracts would not be renewed.

This latest development is part of the jobs consultation.

Dr Bene said: “This scheme is part of the overall review of consultant job plans. Nothing has been agreed and it is all still subject to consultation.

“All other schemes involving staff are currently subject to consultation with them.”

The Trust has said it will publicise the percentage of consultants who agreed to opt into the scheme.

Consultants can earn a basic salary of between £74,504 and £100,446 per year, dependent on length of service. Harry Hanley, secretary of Staff Side, which represents staff at the Trust, said the consultants were not threatened by the job cuts.

He added: “We are all in it together and they are part of the staff so it is only fair they help make some of the savings.”

But the BMA, which represents doctors, said it could impact the quality of care.

A spokesman added: “Supporting Professional Activities (SPA) is the time in doctors' job plans dedicated to the development and assurance of quality.

“It is worrying that the Trust is seeking a blanket cut to this without considering the knock-on effects on the quality of care.

“If the Trust believes that some of this SPA is unnecessary, they should address this with effective job planning."

AN experienced consultant has criticised “a catalogue of mismanagement and incompetence” at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and says staff should not be made to pay for the board’s failures.

Private consultant orthopaedic surgeon Tony Banks said asking consultants to donate their pay was “adding insult to injury”.

Mr Banks worked at the Royal Bolton Hospital for 25 years until he retired five years ago.

The 67-year-old is semi-retired and runs consulting rooms part-time in Bolton.

He said hospital management has been “utterly shambolic” and it had affected ordinary staff’s morale.

Mr Banks added: “It’s not the consultant body or the nurses. We are talking about mismanagement on a monstrous scale.

“The hospital needs somebody to put a firm hand on it and stabalise it.

“Adding insult to injury, the consultant body has been asked to donate from their pay to prop up this management. There is no evidence that senior management have been asked to do the same thing.”

There have been significant changes at the Trust in the last six months.

Chairman Cliff Morris stepped down from the role two months early and health watchdog Monitor took the unusual step of intervening in the Trust, which was already at “red risk” for missing key healthcare targets, after a damning financial report said finances had “deteriorated significantly”.

New chairman David Wakefield was appointed by the health watchdog Monitor in August.

The board, which was criticised by health watchdog Monitor for poor governance, has seen a number of other high profile shake-ups in the past few months.

Jackie Bene, consultant and former medical director at the Royal Bolton Hospital, has been made acting chief executive following Lesley Doherty’s early retirement.

Dr Bene’s role as medical director has been filled by orthopaedic surgeon and head of division elective care at the Royal Bolton Hospital, Steve Hodgson.

In September, the director of finance, Gary Raphael, left his post at the trust by “mutual agreement”. He was temporarily replaced by Wendy Hull, who left the trust in October and the position is now being filled by interim Andy Morris.

The interim chief operations officer Jeremy Tozer, who replaced Andrew Cogan in May, also left the trust in October. He was then replaced by Jon Scott.

A temporary turnaround director, Terry Watson, was appointed in September. This is a new position created as part of a £1 million turnaround package.

There have also been changes to the non-executive board members.