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Learning disability nurses vote for strike after private takeover

Nurses at a service that supports adults with learning disabilities in Doncaster have voted to strike over cuts in pay and conditions, after the service was taken over by a private provider.

The supported living service, which works with more than 140 people with learning disabilities and includes 24-hour care, was taken over by Care UK in September last year after it was awarded a contract by Doncaster Council.

Rob Green, a spokesman for Unison’s Doncaster health branch, said some nurses had already left the service because of planned changes announced in December. “There is no morale – they’re just devastated,” Mr Green told Nursing Times.

Around 25 remaining nursing staff had been asked to accept new terms and conditions that equate to an average £500 a month pay cut, he said. New contracts would mean reduced “enhancement” payments for working unsociable hours, reduced annual leave and moving to statutory maternity/paternity provision and statutory sick pay.

One staff nurse described the situation as “horrendous”. “I have never seen such low morale with people desperately trying to work out whether to abandon ship or stick with the service users,” the nurse told Nursing Times.

Unison balloted members last week, with 96% of 118 votes cast in favour of a seven-day strike. It is yet to be confirmed when it will take place.

But Care UK told Nursing Times its plan was necessary to keep the service viable. A spokeswoman said: “Our proposal is to do this without reducing basic pay while protecting future annual pay increments and securing NHS future final salary pension rights.

“We believe the best way to achieve this is to review the rates and opportunities for things like working evenings or weekends, and to bring paid holiday and sick pay into line with what is more normal for this sector.”

Readers' comments (7)

  • tinkerbell

    Wish you every success, enough is enough!

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  • I worked in a Care Uk care home which was a good home until they took over. Then the cut backs started. Staffing levels became dangerous. 1 RN and 9 HCA for 71 residents. The nursing unit with 19 beds had the RN + 2 HCA. Some of the residents were violent however if one needed to be changed and needed 3 staff (as per care plan) then the rest were left on their own.
    The food budget was cut & the meals were disgusting. I bought the residents fish & chips one day because the meal was so bad. The HCA would bring in butter because Care UK stopped using a margarine that tasted reasonable to one that tasted of fish, tainting all the food it was used in.
    I took out a grievance & Care UK refused to hear it
    Anyone who said anything had false allegations made against them as I did
    I am waiting for the date of an IT against Care UK.
    My sister has dementia and I have told the County Council SS that when she needs residential care she must not go to a care UK home

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  • I am so angry to read this. Legislation SHOULD be in place to protect staff and service users from these kind of practices by private companies in ALL settings. It should be ILLEGAL to impose this level of change. Care UK and others who do this to staff and service users should be PROSECUTED. The most vulnerable need the most protection and putting staff in a position where they cannot afford to take massive pay cuts is increasing their vulnerability, I know of another service for adults with severe and complex learning disabilities that was tendered out to a company who did the same thing, cut staff wages by hundreds of £ a month causing many to have to leave jobs and service users who they had cared for over many years, who they cared deeply for. New staff were then brought in on basic rates who had no experience or therapeutic relationship with the service users as well as very limited or maybe no previous experience of caring 24/7 for vulnerable people, which is frankly a form of psychological abuse and opens up scope for other forms of abuse and emotional harm to the service users who have no voice, and have to experience changes to their lives that they find almost impossible to cope and may express their distress by self harming and other ways which would then be described as 'challenging behaviours'. How would Mr or Mrs Chief Exec of CARE UK et al feel if they relied on 24/7 care in every way, couldn't speak, had been through horrendous previous experiences in institutional settings years ago and had then been cared for by dedicated staff for may year,s to then all of a sudden have unknown people in Their homes undressing them, bathing them, etc etc etc. I truly empathise with the LD nurses who must feel torn apart because they will be devastated that they have had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave their service users because they can't afford to carry on caring for them. Somebody somewhere has got to put a stop to this and start to recognise that staff should never ever be put in this position. Vulnerable people should never ever have to suffer intolerable changes and possible abuse because their care providers want to make their balance sheets and bank balances better. This isn't CARE UK it's ABUSE uk.

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  • Good luck to them.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 19-Feb-2014 7:32 pm

    agree, think it's called obtaining goods/services by deception, attract decent staff and then change their terms, conditions and pay. Devious. How can staff trust the private sector?

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  • It's deception, it's immoral and it's unethical. If there were Human Rights lawyers prepared to take on government AND the individuals that sign off these 'deals', fight for the service users and and prove the psychological harm this causes, maybe this would not be happening to staff who dedicate their lives to caring for them. I fully support the LD nurses in this and all other similar protests but until there is binding and unambiguous legislation to protect them this will keep happening. From a purely business perspective it's a given that motivated staff are the biggest asset in any successful organisation. The govt let the private sector in and paved the way for these companies to do this and it's the govt who should be legally held to account.

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  • This is sad but is something that has been going on for years. To me, it's a reflection of the way that 'care' is valued within society. People are entitled to be cared for by qualified and committed staff but these services are tendered out in order to cut costs and invariably, staff bear the brunt of this.

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