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Nurses at London hospital consider industrial action


Nurses at St George’s Hospital in London are being balloted for possible industrial action over changes to their rotas.

Around 400 theatre nurses and practitioners at St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust are taking part in an “indicative” ballot. Depending on the outcome of the indicative ballot, a full ballot could be triggered that may result in official industrial action at St Georges by nurses for the first time in 23 years.

The new arrangements introduce a variety of shifts, depending on the needs of the service, and replace a basic Monday to Friday, 8:30-5pm pattern.

The union Unison says the rota changes would see staff “suffer pay cuts, day staff forced to work night duty and some of those with childcare commitments forced to quit theatres”.

It says staff are unhappy the rotas do not incorporate provision for childcare and include late shifts that finish at 10pm, an hour later than their current finishing time, which could cause problems for female staff going home by public transport.

The trust has indicated that nurses with childcare responsibilities will be taken off theatre and placed in different wards or specialties.

Unison branch secretary Geoff Thorne said: “It now looks inevitable that we are heading towards industrial action by nurses and practitioners, a situation created by management’s refusal to sit down and discuss childcare and pay protection arrangements.”

Unison nursing convenor Jane Pilgrim added: “I remain hopeful that even at this late stage, we can still sit down and resolve the outstanding issues affecting nursing staff so that patients can continue to receive high quality services.”

A spokesman for the trust said the shift-based rota system had been the subject of months of negotiation with the union.

He said: “The changes will help the trust to meet a growing demand for surgery and to offer patients operations during evenings and on weekends. There will be no redundancies resulting from the changes and additional staff will be recruited to support the new rotas.”

He added: “Changes to the shift system were first raised in a 2007 consultation. Those staff who have joined the trust or been promoted since August 2008 are already employed under the new system. Payment arrangements for additional hours are being changed so, as part of the negotiations, an enhanced bank rate has been agreed for theatre staff.

“Where possible, the trust has sought to either accommodate or offer a compromise to individuals with child care or other commitments. So far, nearly 100 meetings have taken place with individual staff who have asked that their personal circumstances be considered.”


Readers' comments (19)

  • Outstanding! Nurses are finally starting to see the light and are getting a backbone!

    I can pretty much guarantee if this steps up and it looks like strike action will happen, the management will back down pretty quickly.

    Why isn't this happening up and down the country though over the whole range of issues that are effecting us?

    This warrants watching very closely to see what happens.

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  • Sadly I doubt that any action will change minds or alter decisions- NHS management are not really interested in staff issues or in how changes effect them. They are only interested in the bottom line.

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  • Perhaps we need a national ballot for action over the redundancies and pay freeze...?

    We could ask for an increase in the region of 2% - it would still be a cut as inflation is higher than that...

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  • go for it, only thing that will make the government sit up and take notice, nurses can wreak havoc by just refusing to do non-nursing duties

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  • Jenny, they'll certainly take notice when there is no staff to give care and their bottom line disappears altogether!

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  • It's an indicative ballot only. Being a secret ballot I can see loads of people registering a protest vote at this stage but not having the nerve to actually vote on a meaningful ballot or indeed withdraw their labour. Other areas of industry are used to taking industrial action and striking - the healthcare industry isn't.

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  • Industrial action by nurses in the NHS probably won't mean a full out strike, It will more likekly involve 'working to rule' and permanent staff refusing to cover shifts with overtime and bank. The only way the government will sit up and take notice is if we are standing on the picket line.

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  • Anonymous | 28-Jan-2011 10:52 am I agree, but we should get used to it. Look at the benefits full out striking brought to the fire service as just one example.

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  • I say to you sisters (and the odd brothers). Stand up and be counted. The day of reckoning is fast approaching for nurses!


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  • Move people with childcare responsibilities to another area? Is that not discrimination?

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