MENTAL health workers in Stroud are expected to hear by the end of the year whether they will be hit by a raft of wage and benefits cuts as part of a plan by NHS trusts to introduce regional pay in the south west.

2Gether NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental and social health care services across Gloucestershire, is one of 20 in the region considering a package of pay cuts and amendments to workers' terms and conditions.

Members of the South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium, which also includes Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, say the measures are necessary to address the financial and operational challenges facing the NHS.

But campaigners such as Unison and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) criticise the trusts for breaking away from ongoing national pay negotiations and say the measures will do little to claw back the vast savings needed in the NHS.

They also fear it will drive skilled workers away from the region - creating a knock-on effect on the local economy - and heavily criticise the £10,000 fee required from trusts to join the consortium, which they say amounts to some £200,000 being detracted from patient care.

The list of potential changes the consortium could introduce include an end to unsocial hours payments, an increase in working hours and cuts to sick pay, redundancy pay and holiday entitlement.

The controversial proposals loom large over the 2,300 members of staff employed by 2Gether, which provides a range of services for some 12,000 patients across the county and Herefordshire.

Last week, the RCM held meetings at Stroud General Hospital, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Dilke Memorial Hospital in the Forest of Dean to campaign against regional pay.

The group says the plans would exacerbate the existing shortage of midwives in the south west as skilled workers would be put off pursuing their careers in the region.

"Midwives in Gloucestershire and across the south west are rightly concerned by the trusts' plans to break away from national pay agreements," said a spokesman for the RCM.

"They have already seen their pay frozen over the past two years and are now facing an estimated wage cut of 15 per cent, just for working in the south west.

"The plans by the consortium are short-sighted, do not have political backing and will alienate hard working midwives and other NHS staff."

A spokesman for 2Gether confirmed that the consortium is working to issue a business case by the end of the year and added that the trust remained hopeful that national pay discussions would continue.