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NHS Direct staff call off industrial action over downbanding dispute

Nurses and call advisors working for NHS Direct have called off industrial action following talks with management.

More than 200 frontline staff members were affected by plans to down-band their roles when they moved into the new NHS 111 service. NHS 111 is due to replace NHS Direct’s 0845 number nationwide by 21 March.

Under the plans senior nurse advisers, currently on a band 6 Agenda for Change salary, were being asked to accept a band 5 if they wanted to transfer into a similar role with NHS 111. Health advisers would be down-banded from a band 3 to a band 2 if they chose to stay on.

Long-serving staff would get pay protection for up to three years but employees who have worked there for less than two years will get just six months protection.

Unison members had voted to take industrial action. However, NHS Direct has now agreed to review and re-evaluate the banding, starting in July, following talks at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

Unison national officer Michael Walker said he was pleased an agreement had been reached and industrial action had been avoided.

“Nurses and health advisors at NHS Direct are clear that national agreements must be upheld and that they are willing to take action to defend them,” he said.

Roger Rawlinson, HR and transition director at NHS Direct, said the meeting had been “extremely useful and constructive”. 

“We will be redeploying relevant staff into their respective new band 2 and band 5 posts from 1 April, with notice of the start of their pay protection running from that date,” he said.

Readers' comments (12)

  • From reading this article, it appears that the employer has won and the union has caved.

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  • And how much are the OOH doctors being paid?
    We do not hear that the doctors are ever asked to take a pay cut, only the nurses.
    We have been so de-valued the HCA's will be paid more soon.

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  • Glad they think it was constructive, though it does not seem to be, according to this article. What were the ACAS grounds for letting the staff think it was OK to start a contract on a lower grade? Will they take industrial action if they are not upgraded later in the year? This is important because precedents may be set.

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  • Carrie-Ann, I completely agree. It looks like they are protecting pay, but the problem is with that, what happens when it runs out? Seems like it's just delaying it......

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  • A rep at NHS Direct tells me

    All staff rebanding in July (good victory)

    If not rebanded up (for maj of staff)

    Industrial action ballot will start again (obv only UNISON)

    Deal also secured 3 years protection

    The unions at NHS Direct aware of Importance that nurses and health advisors remain ready to industrial action

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  • Sorry but having read this article I am no wiser about what has happened. Why exactly has the strike action been called off? I haven't a clue after reading this. NHS Direct is running only about 1/3 of the 111 services across the country. The rest are being run by ambulance services and private providers. What happens to nurses going to non-NHSD providers? Also after the protected period many nurses are likely to lose out on unsocial hours payments as my understanding is that the ambulance service unsocial hours enhancement is 120% or 125%, not the 130% or 160% nurses are paid under AfC.

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  • In principle it sounds like a good idea (have a single number running alongside 999 to simplify access to OOH services) but in reality NHS111 is a cost cutting exercise. They are employing fewer nurses and more non-clinical (band 2 or 3) staff to handle calls. Not only will they pay fewer nurses but they will pay them less by down-banding staff and paying lower unsocial hours enhancements.

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  • you don't need highly qualified nursing and medical staff to issue a list of set questions and match customer responses to a set of algorithms which is sadly all they do in the modern health insurance call centres.

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  • from Anonymous | 9-Mar-2013 6:50 am

    in fact India, or Australia (last time i rang one) will do just as well to save costs, especially as you can't always understand them or their accent (like my UK based bank) and you cannot discuss anything outside the box as the operators come from a totally different environment and do not understand some of the problems and concerns of customers in the UK!!!!!

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  • Try this next time you are asked a list of questions!!!


    Lyrics to Goodness Gracious Me :

    Her: Oh doctor, I'm in trouble.
    Him: Well, goodness gracious me.
    Her: For every time a certain man
    Is standing next to me.
    Him: Mmm?
    Her: A flush comes to my face
    And my pulse begins to race,
    It goes boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom,
    Him: Oh!
    Her: Boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Him: Well, goodness gracious me.
    Him: How often does this happen?
    When did the trouble start?
    You see, my stethoscope is bobbing
    To the throbbing of your heart.
    Her: What kind of man is he
    To create this allergy?
    It goes boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom,
    Him: Oh!
    Her: Boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Him: Well, goodness gracious me.
    Him: From New Delhi to Darjeeling
    I have done my share of healing,
    And I've never yet been beaten or outboxed,
    I remember that with one jab
    Of my needle in the Punjab
    How I cleared up beriberi
    And the dreaded dysentery,
    But your complaint has got me really foxed.
    Her: Oh.
    Her: Oh doctor, touch my fingers.
    Him: Well, goodness gracious me.
    Her: You may be very clever
    But however, can't you see,
    My heart beats much too much
    At a certain tender touch,
    It goes boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom,
    Him: I like it!
    Her: Boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Him: Well, goodness gracious me.
    Him: Can I see your tongue?
    Her: Aaah.
    Him: Nothing the matter with it, put it away please.
    Her: Maybe it's my back.
    Him: Maybe it is.
    Her: Shall I lie down?
    Him: Yes.
    Her: Ahhh...
    Him: My initial diagnosis
    Rules out measles and thrombosis,
    Sleeping sickness and, as far as I can tell,
    Influenza, inflammation,
    Whooping cough and night starvation,
    And you'll be so glad to hear
    That both your eyeballs are so clear
    That I can positively swear that you are well,
    Ja-ja, ja-ja-ja-ja.
    Her: Put two and two together,
    Him: Four,
    Her: If you have eyes to see,
    The face that makes my pulses race
    Is right in front of me.
    Him: Oh, there is nothing I can do
    For my heart is jumping too.
    Both: Oh, we go boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom
    Boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom-boom-boom
    Boom boody-boom boody-boom boody-boom,
    Her: Goodness gracious,
    Him: How audacious!
    Her: Goodness gracious,
    Him: How flirtatious!
    Her: Goodness gracious,
    Him: It is me.
    Her: It is you?
    Him: Ah, I'm sorry, it is us.
    Both: Ahhh!

    [ These are Goodness Gracious Me Lyrics on http://www.lyricsmania.com/ ]

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  • I just clicked on the word 'protection' hoping to get info on banding protection and was taken to a Tesco site selling Allways pantie pads! LOL.

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  • I don't know why it isn't just admitted that pay banding was a costly mistake and revert back to grading. It was fairly obvious that it was just a step towards reducing the number of trained nurses anyway.

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