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Exclusive: Nursing staff raise concerns over rota changes at cancer charity


Leading end of life care charity Marie Curie Cancer Care has been accused of being “unfair” to nursing staff over changes to its off-duty rota system.

The charity is planning to roll out a system for contracted staff that will mean nursing staff can only request when they take a maximum of four of their off-duty days per month. Currently, most of staff submit requests for any number of their off-duty days, which are then considered by managers, before rotas are drawn up.

The revised system, which has operated in Wales since 2004, is due to be piloted in the north west of England between February and April, with a view to extending it to the rest of the country. The move will initially affect 1,200 staff.

However, Nursing Times understands the move has sparked anger among some of the charity’s workforce.

Peter Sinden, a senior HCA who has worked for the charity for three years, said he had previously been able to request up to 10 guaranteed off duty days and that four days was not enough.

“It is grossly unfair to have 26 to 27 nights in control of Marie Curie and makes it very hard to live or plan your own life,” he told Nursing Times.

Dawn Tame-Battell, assistant director of patient services at Marie Curie, told Nursing Times the change was to ensure patients received care when they needed it, and stressed staff would still get the same total number of days off.

She highlighted that it had become customary for staff to submit their availability and expect to have rotas devised around that.

“People weren’t requesting, but telling us, when they were going to work whether or not there were patients to care for,” she said. “This an attempt to make sure staff are actually working to their terms and conditions.”

Ms Tame-Battell added: “Staff will put in their off duty requests. We will then compile an off duty, trying to meet their requests, but that balances the needs of the service and patients as well as ensuring staff have good periods of rest.”

She admitted nurses had already raised concerns, but said some of those were because staff had not fully understood the proposed changes. “People have raised concerns but we believe we have addressed some of those,” she said.

Ms Tame-Battell said the charity would consider amending the system in light of staff feedback after the pilot.


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Readers' comments (6)

  • Welcome to the real world!

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  • Anonymous 9:54

    You beat me to it !!!!

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  • I can't beilieve they have been allowed to request that many shifts - it must make doing the off duty a nightmare, and I'm sure the people who don't request get all the rubbish shifts. In our NHS trust, even before e-rostering came in, it was five shift requests for full time staff, and then prorata for part time staff. Much fairer.

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  • Definitely agree re real work, & says something about teamwork/whether your focus is the patients too.
    In all the places where I've worked with self-rostering it's been the same: People were meant to take some responsibility for keeping numbers in your section even across the shifts. Shifts that were real 'requests' rather than just slotted in you put in red. Some people put entire rota in red, putting themselves on as 5th person (only due 2) when other shifts empty & then got upset when their shifts changed. Those of us who wrote what wasn't our ideal off duty, but the best we could looking at numbers, with only a few really essential requests, found our lines were never changed & we were able to plan our lives further ahead - planning around what we'd entered rather than having to wait until off duty appeared. In the end you won out for 'playing the game' properly.
    There will always be Equality Act adjustments needed for some, but.....yes, welcome to the real world!

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  • I work for the charity. This article is not accurate. I work in Yorkshire, all the nurses give availability as requested by Marie Curie and we are allowed to put in 4 requests. The rota is then compiled, we are then telephoned to swap shifts if certain shifts are not covered. I can honestly say that all of us in our area are happy to be flexible and without question do this for the benefit of the patients and their families. We regularly take referrals up to 9 pm at night and are prepared also to do extra shifts for urgent patients whenever we can. I cannot speak for other areas but this works well in ours (perhaps this should be the pilot scheme!) Some of our staff work part-time and have child care to consider and other part time jobs with other companies, they do this to fit in with their family commitments. People are worried that working for the company with the proposed changes simply will not work. In my opinion it would more beneficial for line managers to do the rotas in their own area knowing staff personally and understanding the needs of their patients. We all go out at Christmas for no extra pay, attend training and regularly fundraise in our spare time voluntarily as we love the job and see what a huge difference it makes to patients and their families at a difficult time. We were asked for feedback and the pilot scheme was rolled out even before the results had been taken into account. Ms Tame-Battell please do not treat us like we do not understand the proposed changes, we absolutely do! Perhaps management should take the time out to come and meet us and some of the families we are working with. It's then you realise we very much do live in the real world as opposed to one which looks wonderful and oh so neat and tidy on both a PC screen and spreadsheet. The slant put on by Ms Tame-Battel regarding the front line staff is both insulting but unfortunately expected these days. What an ill informed article. Ms Tame-Battel will be more than aware of the recent survey from the patients and their families which stated a satisfaction figure in excess of 93% for the Marie Curie Nursing Service. Perhaps other areas of the service need to be examined in more detail rather than tinkering for tinkerings sake with a quantifiably and admired, successful aspect of the current offering. We are massively and rightfully proud of the service we provide and as all nursing staff do, go far and above the call of duty to provide the very best, most caring, professional service for the people we visit in their and their families time of need. Very disappointed with the tone and content of this person of influence's writing here.

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  • Parttimemum

    Like my colleague above I feel this article is incorrect, to the people who made the comments about being in the real world let me share what my Marie Curie real world is

    I work full time in the south east community, thats 16 nights a month plus 3 reserve shifts, which I have to work if at anytime I have been cancelled resulting in me missing a day/night off with my family as I have slept and made prior childcare arrangements I dont actually get this night off till 10pm.

    We set out of an evening at 9pm arriving around 9.45 to start our shift for 10pm. Often we are sat in cold homes with poor lighting if we have a chair its luxury but often it could be a stool, commode or the floor, do we complain no, because thats the least of a patients/ families problem, we put up and shut up. I very rarely leave a shift at 7am if I have left by 8am its a bonus, we then have our drive home, often have to stay up till we can get hold of a Dn. At no point do we get paid for travelling or staying beyond our 7am finish unlike ward based staff who can stick that extra ward time down.

    On my days off I have to attend team meetings, clinical supervision and mandatory training. I can spend upto 3hrs worth of my day off driving to attend these we do not get paid for that time, there has been times when the Cln has arrived late and we are sat waiting only to be paid for the time the Cln has been in the room.

    We take calls for referrals from 8.30am-22.00pm this is on our days off and even during the days we are trying to sleep as we are working. We do not get the luxury of walking away from a ward and being left in peice, im often taking a referral whilst cooking a family meal, helping with homework or in the middle of 2 fighting children over a piece of lego.

    We are also expected on our days off to sit and do the online training we do not get paid to do this, some courses are over 2hrs long and then a test at the end with a time counter this is hard when you have children wanting attention and then trying to fit time in with my partner.

    I reguarly attend my local marie curie fundraising group and often found rattling a can at my local supermarket in a cold doorway with 2 small children in tow so that I do not miss time with my family.

    So getting with the real world is not an option for us, all we ask is that marie curie looks at the bigger picture of its staff, when informed of this article I was staggered by the way its written and the way the marie curie staff are being made out to be moaners and a little thick at understanding the new proposal, not one of my coleagues that I have spoken to understood it the way Ms Tame-Battel was portraying us as doing so, maybe she should come out of her cosy office and get with the real world thats the staff that are working above and beyond to give the much loved care our patients require. Until you work out in the community for marie curie you really have no idea what we do and are expected to do for very little and often nothing.

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