The Independent London Newspaper
23rd June 2017

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: Longer hours for less money may be last straw for nurses

    Royal Free Hospital

    Hundreds of nurses and midwives at the Royal Free Hospital are in uproar after being asked to work longer shifts and more unpaid breaks under bosses’ 'harmonisation' programme

    Published: 1 December, 2016

    THE threat of an exodus of quality, trained nurses should send a shiver down the spine of any NHS chief executive who prides their hospital on its “world-class” patient care.

    The Royal Free is certainly treading a dangerous path in demanding nurses, and midwives, work longer shifts for less money.

    Staff have responded in their hundreds to an internal survey about the attempt to “harmonise” shift patterns across the NHS Trust’s many hospital sites.

    Many express outrage over proposals that will see them working longer shifts for less money. Already under severe working pressure, they are also concerned that the changes could jeopardise patient safety. On a personal level, they will have less time with their families and, perhaps, suffer sleep deprivation. This dispute is part of a bigger crisis threatening to undermine the National Health Service nationally. 

    Across the country, tens of thousand of hospital nursing posts lie vacant. Following the Mid-Staffs hospital scandal, the government launched an inquiry which led to the Francis Report. The report identified a shortage of nurses as the key reason for the devastating failings in patient care. Ever since the Francis inquiry, in 2010, NHS trusts in England have been put under intense pressure to recruit more nurses.

    Figures, recently compiled by the Royal College of Nursing revealed there were 176 empty posts at the Royal Free, 149 at the Whittington Hospital and more than 500 at University College London Hospital. All these Trusts have held employment fairs overseas – in Ireland, Spain and Portugal – in a bid to solve this recruitment crisis. 

    Across the country, many trusts are believed to be running on nursing numbers that break safe staffing guidelines. There are many theories about why these positions are hard to fill. The cost of living in inner London, the shortage of “keyworker” homes and the sale of nursing homes are of course major factors, particularly in Hampstead. 

    Asking nurses to work longer hours for less money will only drive more away. 

    Is there hope for the NHS? 

    LAST night (Wednesday) more than 100 people packed into the council chamber to launch a fightback against the latest reorgan­isation of the health service. Campaigners are demanding the council unite with them in opposing the Sustainability Transfor­mation Plan. The strength of feeling against the STP was palpable at what was a fiery and invigorating public meeting. Will the Town Hall listen?