SOUTHEND Hospital staff are paid as much as £1,380 a year less than their counterparts at every other NHS organisation in the country.

The trust opted out of a national pay deal in 2006 and a string of local pay freezes have left staff out of pocket, the hospital admits.

Trade union Unison has blamed the low pay for a staffing crisis, which has seen the hospital spend as much as £1million a month on agency workers.

A total of £29million has been spent on agency staff in the past four years, as revealed in Monday’s Echo.

But the hospital claims workers back the local deal and says most staff leave because of a lack of opportunity for promotion.

About 95 per cent of staff voted to keep the local package, which includes 33 days leave, long-service awards and up to 12 weeks to care for a terminally ill relative, rather than opt for the national “agenda for change” terms and conditions in 2006, which were adopted by every other NHS organisation in the country.

A series of pay freezes introduced at the hospital means local salaries are between £92 and £1,380 per year behind Agenda for Change equivalents, prompting Unison to call for a pay rise.

Regional organiser Sam Older said: “NHS staff at Southend are truly worth a pay rise. They should be paid in line with other staff working for other NHS trusts.

“The recent pay offer for NHS staff on Agenda for Change terms is an insult to our members who undertake vital work, and the current local pay for staff at Southend is even less.

“Southend NHS needs to catch up on pay to keep quality NHS staff working in Southend.”

Sandra Le Blanc, director of human resources for the hospital, said: “In previous years, following consultation with staff and the recognised trade unions, the trust did not increase pay scales in order to minimise redundancies.

“However we did so last April in line with the national pay award of one per cent.

“Staff that leave the trust are asked to complete a confidential exit questionnaire online.

“The latest information shows the primary reason for staff choosing to leave is related to opportunities for promotion.

“There is no evidence to suggest that having local terms and conditions has had an impact on attracting new staff as we have the flexibility to place staff on any point within our pay scales.”