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Downgrading to be challenged

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Unison is to launch a campaign against the downgrading of nursing and other posts.

Delegates at the Unison healthcare service group conference in Manchester last week passed a motion condemning trusts that have cut nurses’ pay through Agenda for Change
re-banding and have used other skill-mix restructuring, such as changing ratios of registered and non-registered staff, to save money.

The vote follows a number of examples of this practice being identified up and down the country, most recently in Derby (p5).

The motion, proposed by Sharon Pullen of Grimsby health branch, criticised hospital trusts and PCTs that were attempting to downgrade the roles of nurses and other healthcare workers.

The internal payment by results market system and the impact of independent sector companies competing for work had led to NHS organisations attempting to save money by eroding nurses’ pay, it stated.

The motion called for the government to ensure AfC was properly funded and for Unison to launch a campaign to ensure staffing levels at hospitals remained safe.

As well as the campaign, Unison’s national nursing sector will produce guidelines for safe staffing levels in order to ensure service quality is maintained.

Branches and regions are to survey their members to gauge the level of reorganisation taking place, especially around nursing.

The motion stated that nursing was a ‘particular focus of trusts’ attention’ when conducting skill-mix reviews.

‘What is emerging is NHS employers are seeking to renege on their commitments under Agenda for Change by conducting skill-mix reviews of nursing and other staff,’ Ms Pullen told delegates.

Mark Ladbrooke, speaking on behalf of the service group executive that supported the motion, said: ‘We know what the drivers are for the downgrading – payment by results and marketisation is driving trusts and employers to try to cut pay rates.’

Adrian O’Malley, of Wakefield and Pontefract hospitals branch, said his trust in Yorkshire had cut nurses’ pay using a skill-mix review.

‘The management reduced band 6 and band 7. But the reality is that the nurses are doing the same job,’ he added.

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