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Deals on Wheels Campaign - Wales

 
SEPTEMBER 2001, UPDATE

This is an update for CPHVA and CPNA members on the Deals on Wheels campaign covering what has been happening in the last few months.

This short briefing should be read in the knowledge that CPHVA and CPNA members are taking part in a lobby of the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday, 16 October on this issue.

This lobby will also incorporate the Make IT Happen campaign which is aimed at our members receiving the full benefit of the NHS IT revolution.

Members who may have questions on the briefing below should contact MSF/CPHVA health section Research Officer, Colin Adkins on 020 7505 3167 or Shaun Noble, CPHVA Professional Communications Officer on 020 7939 7043.

Mileage Allowances

Last summer (2000), the General Whitley Council increased the Regular User Allowance by 4p a mile from 29p, with a similar increase for the Standard User Allowance, giving a new rate of 43p.

These paltry rises that in no way reflected the hike in petrol prices over the previous two years. While the increase was patently inadequate, the fact there was any movement at all can, to a large extent, be put down to the CPHVA campaign. The CPHVA was the only nursing union to come out against the ‘interim’ award.

As the word 'interim' suggests the Department of Health was looking for a more long-term settlement of the issue of mileage allowances. This focused on restructuring or to use contemporary parlance ‘modernisation of the system’.

The department was looking at restructuring the allowances to give a disincentive to the use of larger engine vehicles in line with the government's environmental driven measures on car use. Community practitioners are not known for their ownership of such vehicles, so the key issue for us was the whether this would result in additional resources being pumped into the system.

Usually reliable sources' reported that a revised offer was put before the minister for approval before the last election. This was delayed due to the election. The new minister responsible has given insufficient priority to addressing this issue seemingly under-estimating its importance to health staff working in the community.

This does raise questions about those colleagues who are on trust terms. In our experience these agreements give at best equal compensation and, at worst, wholly inferior terms to those under Whitley. The existence of trust terms is out of keeping with the government's drive to modernise the NHS pay system.

Action we are seeking from the Welsh Assembly: That they intervene with the minister in order to get the draft offer finalised and tabled before the Staff Side as soon as possible in order to stop community health staff subsidising the NHS.

Lease Cars

These are a mess. When they were introduced in 1988 it was claimed they would be better for staff and employers. In fact, they have badly penalised staff in every sense – mileage rates, lump sums, mileage rules, damage incurred and so on.

Arrangements differ from trust to trust and even between professions. We are seeking a new framework nationally for these. MSF/CPHVA wants this to be as prescriptive as possible to prevent trusts using such schemes as a money-spinner. It is the key issue we want to link to improvements in mileage rates.

However, these are unlikely to be a major priority during the period when the NHS pay modernisation talks are still very much in progress.

Action we are seeking from the Welsh Assembly: Our sources inform us that this may be a feature of the revised offer on Motor Car Allowances. However, this does not prevent Wales acting independently by establishing a nationwide framework for lease cars. A successful Wales-wide agreement could prove to be a template for a future UK framework. Our approach to any framework would be that the car is a tool of the trade for community health staff and equity between professions or between staff and management.

Parking

We have argued for a badge system for all community health staff, not just GPs. Some large cities like London have an emergency badge system but in most cases this does not address the needs of community health staff who need to park freely during the course of their day to day work in meeting clients. Therefore, this is still an outstanding issue.

Due to the CPHVA campaign there is a strong possibility that an inter-ministerial letter will be sent by the Department of Health to the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, proposing a pilot scheme for a badge with a wider application. It is being proposed that a meeting take place between the transport department and the health unions.

In London, consultation is taking place on the introduction of congestion charging. The CPHVA and London NHS trusts are seeking dispensation for community health staff using their car during the course of their work. We fear a narrow vision of a health vehicle will be proposed, which members are calling the 'flashing blue light syndrome'.

Action we are seeking from the Welsh Assembly: That they follow the example of Scottish Parliament and write to all local authorities in Wales proposing a more universal badge scheme for community health staff. That they also write to the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions supporting the idea of a meeting with health unions on this issue.

Taxation

MSF met with Dawn Primarolo when she was a shadow treasury minister and obtained assurances of an early review to consider moving NHS car usage out of the "perk" taxation category. She is now the real thing and nothing whatsoever has happened, except a statement that the planned revisions to the tax treatment of lease cars would favour community health staff by rewarding use of smaller engine vehicles. This is small solace as the basic principle of the car as a tool of trade for community health staff is not recognised. The CPHVA is seeking a meeting with the minister concerned.

 
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