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Nurses told to buy their own milk at Barts


Nurses at Barts Hospital in London have been told they cannot use milk provided by their trust to make themselves a cup of tea or coffee, as part of cost-cutting measures.

Frontline staff at Barts and the London Trust have been told not to use the trust-bought milk, which will be reserved exclusively for patients, and instead must buy their own.

One charge nurse, who did not want to be named, described the money-saving measures as “petty and demoralising”.

The nurse said the milk ban had been introduced via word of mouth from superiors, rather than through an official announcement. He said. “I don’t think they’ve got the bottle to send round a trust-wide letter about it.”

The nurse said the move was hugely resented by staff, who rarely took tea-breaks and were working extra hard as a result of the financial pressures on the NHS.

“I would imagine the chief executive doesn’t have to bring his own milk in if he wants a cup of tea,” he said. “I’m old enough to remember Margaret Thatcher taking milk away from primary school children, and this has got the same vicious ring about it.”

A spokesman for the trust, which announced earlier this month it was to cut 250 nursing posts, said it had to use all its resources “in the most cost-effective way”.

He said: “A recent review of non-patient expenditure identified the provision of free milk to a minority of staff as an area where savings could be made.  In line with the majority of NHS trusts, all our staff now buy their own milk.”


Readers' comments (58)

  • Well, buying milk I will agree to if it means that nurses jobs will be protected. Doubt it though. However, this is petty as nurses work so hard on the wards and as the article says, rarely get full breaks, if at all. As a CNS, I do buy my own milk, teabags,sugar and coffee (which I provide 'free' to Consultants and other staff for meetings in my office.) Listne to this though, stop the Ambulance staff, porters and domestic staff using the ward tea, coffee etc. as well. Hey, here's an idea, how about charging nurses for a glass of water next?

    Incidentally, I don't agree with the comment that the Chief Executive will not pay for milk. I would be very surprised if he/she didn't buy all his consumables, but yes, stop it if they do.

    I am happy to make savings in the NHS as long as it does not impact on valid nursing jobs or patient care. Buying milk is an ok by me personally, but leave the nursing posts themselves alone.
    At the moment we are obviously being 'rationed' with clean linen - the wards are running out of clean sheets, pillow cases and blankets. The weather is still cold out there and we are looking after sick people. If we buy out milk can we have our linen back? Frankly, I could go on and on with these counter pettinesses.

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  • In the community in our trust we contribute a monthly amount for tea coffee etc, it might seem petty but at the end of the day its suprising how much it costs. We all need to make savings wherever possible and if this means that ALL employees contribute then so be it.

    Lets see some common sense I say around redistribution of unused medication and unopened sterile dressing, this is where the NHS could save billions.

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  • all 3 trusts i woked for have always implemented this - with a disciplinary if caught as its classed as theft. im suprised youve been getting it for free all this time!! most private complanies, individuls must put money towards tea/coffee, that ive heard of too.

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  • At the trust i work, we have to buy are own milk also.

    I agree with the person who said "Lets see some common sense I say around redistribution of unused medication and unopened sterile dressing, this is where the NHS could save billions."

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  • The trust I work for has tried that one too on several occasions, but the staff ignore it and it goes away.

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  • I am a British expat in Europe. Every time I come to Britain I notice how mean minded everybody is. I am not referring to my individual compatriots but to their submission to all the rules and regulations imposed on them by the authorities.

    I find it totally shocking and am so grateful I have the priviledge to live and have worked elsewhere, especially when you think of the small amounts of milk normally poured into tea and coffee even multiplied by the number of nurses taking these beverages, and how much nurses give to their employers and how little they recieve in return which is not just about money.

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  • Phil Dup

    I have calculated that during my 15 years as a Trained Nurse I have worked HUNDREDS of extra hours unpaid via missed meal breaks, getting away late etc - all due to chronic understaffing to save money.
    As a result of this whilst my trust therefore still owes me THOUSANDS of pounds in underpaid wages I will continue to indulge in my one "free" cup of tea per shift at the NHS "expense".

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  • I agree with Phil above, if it is classed as theft to take milk from the hospital then what about all the unpaid overtime (which is often enforced) surely that is theft too? Trust managers should be wary of getting too petty after all we could all play that game if we wanted.

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  • Phil Dup | 22-Feb-2011 12:30 pm

    It is so sad that you are saying what nobody should even have to comtemplate thinking, let alone expressing in public, and that is what I meant in my observations as an Expat about mean spiritedness.

    Imagine all those nursing 'thieves', a generation before I trained, and way back in the dark ages who used to make wonderful porridge at 6 am for the patients and they and the doctors ate what was left over. Unfotunately, (or maybe fortunately - as you might say yuck) it appears that everything in the ward kitchen fridge that they could lay hands on went into this porridge such as eggs, and I really cannot imagine what else! Mind you, I am told, that they were very careful not to get caught.

    If we couldn't sleep after nights or needed some medication such as a painkiller, or ABs to tide us over before getting to the pharmacy, it was perfectly acceptable to take these or a small dressing from the ward stock. The boss and sometimes the doctors came and asked as well, even for their families - this was considered perfectly normal and was never even considered as stealing! We would have been mortified if it was and would not have even considered it.

    Oh, and by the way we always had milk in our fridge for our coffee and if we needed extra for the staff we ordered it, perfectly legitimately, from the kitchen. Tea and instant coffee was free and we purchased our own fresh ground coffee. The only thing that was strictly forbidden was eatng an extra meal left over from the patients although we did this discretely on occasions too if we were busy as we only had 1/2 meal breaks with up to 10 minutes to get to the cafeteria in the lifts, then another 10 minutes to queue up and make our choice and pay and then after eating we needed time to get back to the ward giving us little rest and sometimes indigesiton!

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  • Why should the tax payer pay for staff refreshments. I cant believe how precious NHS staff are. Of course you should pay for your own refereshments our trust have had this policy for many years its not a big deal most areas have a weekly kitty and share milk tea and coffee. We are sounding like spoilt brats moaning over this no wonder the general public think we are so cosseted from the real world

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