HUNDREDS of staff at an Oxfordshire health trust are to lose a cost of living allowance, in the latest blow to the county’s NHS workers.

More than 860 staff working for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust are currently entitled to £50 a month to help with the high cost of living in the county.

But from April next year, the allowance, which was introduced in 2001, will be withdrawn.

The decision, which staff were informed about in June, has been condemned by unions representing NHS staff in Oxfordshire, as “a slap in the face” for hard-working people.

It was revealed a fortnight ago that the trust was axeing Christmas party funds.

About 700 staff at community hospitals had previously been offered a donation of up to £35 each towards a Christmas party as a thank-you for their work.

Both decisions were revealed after the trust was condemned for giving its chief executive a pay rise while other staff salaries were frozen. Julie Waldron, the former chief executive of the trust who was responsible for overseeing the cuts and was in charge when the decision was made to cut the Christmas payments, saw her salary band rise from between £160,000 and £165,000 to between £165,000 and £170,000.

She was this month replaced by Stuart Bell, whose salary is £189,000.

Oxford & District Trades Union Council president Pól Ó Ceallaigh said: “When staff are in the second and third year of a pay freeze, when senior management have just given themselves a pay rise and (when) Oxfordshire is the most expensive area in the country outside London, to remove these allowances is a slap in the face to hard-working health workers.”

Unison spokesman Ian McKendrick said: “Our members aren’t happy. There’s a chronic problem for all NHS staff working in Oxford – we are paying London prices. If you’re a health worker in London, you would be getting £4,000 to £5,000 extra. Unison thinks we should keep it for those who have got it and see it extended for everyone.”

The trust runs community hospitals, mental health services and a range of community health services.

A trust spokesman said: “Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has been in discussions with trade union representatives since 2011, following national NHS pay guidelines.

“These guidelines stated that trusts should withdraw additional recruitment and retention payments from March 31, 2011, unless there was evidence to support their continuation. Nearly all other trusts in the Thames Valley region have already stopped these payments.”

The spokesman added: “The trust has been gone beyond most other NHS employers in making these transitional arrangements.”