Medical staff at Brighton’s children’s hospital say they are willing to strike if their on-call policy is changed in a way which makes them choose between a pay cut or no sleep.
The Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital recently ran a consultation with staff which raised the prospect of medics who were called out at night no longer being able to take the next morning off as paid leave to catch up on sleep.
Instead, they would be expected to either come in or make up the hours at a later date – and if they didn’t do this, their pay would be docked.
The GMB Nursing and HCA Union ran a consultative ballot which 78.4% of their members responded too, all saying they would support action up to and including strike action if the changes are made.
Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser says: “Forcing them to choose between a cut to their pay or endangering patient safety without a thought of the consequences is quite frankly shocking.
“I hope management take this overwhelming show of anger and disillusionment with their employer in this ballot result seriously, because I can assure you the GMB are.
“Members have told me time and time again about the impossible position they will find themselves in when having to choose to breach the working time directive, which is in place to protect not only their own health but that of their patients as well, or in losing on-call payments which for some could be up to as much as 30% of their annual pay.
“The new policy that the trust want to impose would then see Nurses and HCA’s, if they failed to commence their next shift after completing an on–call session, having to owe the hours they can’t attend because of strangely needing sleep to recover from the previous long day’s patient care.
“This would mean that already exhausted staff will see an even further reduction of any type of work life balance because some time over the next month they will have to work those owed hours into an already packed working week or month or face their pay being cut.
“Staff at the Royal Alex understand that patient needs mean that on-call is always going to be needed to be covered by the children’s theatre team and are very happy, as the dedicated team they are to do so.
“However, the trust must listen to those that know best what is needed to protect and continue to deliver the very best paediatrics services for the children of Brighton and the south-east and not seek to thoughtlessly just save money out of the pockets of those working at the hospital.
“It’s just not right that many of the staff GMB are supporting through this process to date, might end up doing on–call two, three or even four times a week, meaning that hours owed or pay lost soon reaches ridiculous proportions, leaving some nursing staff risking their reputations, registrations and patients health along with their own by having to do even more additional shifts in order to stop their employer deducting pay and leaving them unable to pay everyday bills and living costs, as a result of covering these shifts.
“Therefore the GMB union and Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital theatre staff have asked that this detrimental proposal is halted and that the trust look instead to design, with the help of the team themselves, a new shift pattern to incorporate planned on-call provision, meaning patient safety, staff work life balances and pay would remain protected.
“Unfortunately after some initial positive noises by management to the GMB and children’s theatre teams’ alternative suggestion on the matter like rostered on–call is being ignored by the trust and dismissed as too expensive.
“Even though staff are fully behind the option in principal, nothing has progressed and the potential April 1 implementation date has not been taken off the table, so in light of such a strong consultative ballot outcome GMB union members have chosen to press on towards formal notice being given to the trust to undertake an industrial action ballot.
“On the basis of that result, members will decide reluctantly on a range of actions available to take including strike action, not providing any on-call services or a work to rule and contractual hours only as a direct response to the application of any such a detrimental changes if the trust ignore them and impose changes.”
The unions have today informed Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, that a formal ballot over whether to strike or not will start next Monday.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “We recently carried out a consultation with staff to ensure everyone had the opportunity to share their views.
“We are grateful for the feedback they have given us and are now reviewing this. Once this is complete we will share the results with staff. No decisions will be made without careful consideration of their feedback.”