Urgent action must be taken to address the transport needs of nursing staff who provide vital services during the night, campaigners have warned.
The Royal College of Nursing London region has teamed up with researchers from University College London to fight for more support for nurses and other health professionals who are forced to take a longer route home after a night shift to save money.
“Night after night it is nursing staff who keep our hospitals running whilst many are out having fun”
They want to see the Mayor of London introduce a “night-rider” fare that would allow night shfit staff to move between buses, tubes, trains or trams in a single fare, to allow nurses to switch between modes of transport rather than relying on reduced or longer bus services to preserve expenses.
The campaigners said investment in night-time policies for nurses should be matched with the support that is already in place for party-goers and those who are out having fun.
They believe that the night-time economy is “too heavily” geared towards consumers, rather than nursing staff who are working to keep services running after dark.
Research by the urban innovation and policy lab at the university found that 50% of bus trips taken at night are journeys to and from work and that night-time workers are often working on low wages compared to day-time workers, spending a large share of their income on transport.
RCN and UCL said nurses and other health professionals working unsocial hours, especially during the week, are often left with reduced services, meaning staff must take long and sometimes expensive journeys after their shifts.
In addition to the night-rider fare, the campaigners are asking for a representative from the nursing profession, as the largest staff grouping in health and care, to be given a seat on the new Late Night Transport Working Group which the mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed would be meeting for the first time in 2019.
“It feels like we health workers are a key part of making London a 24-hour city but aren’t really treated as such”
Earlier this year, the now disbanded Night Time Commission group began to consider extending night services, in which the concept of the night-rider fare was first born.
Due to the opportunities to shape policy in the new transport group, the RCN regional branch and research team said it was “absolutely vital” that health workers were represented with a seat at the table of the Late Night Transport Working Group.
RCN London regional director Jude Diggins said: “London is an amazing and vibrant 24-hour city that is the envy of much of the world and night after night it is nursing staff who keep our hospitals running whilst many are out having fun.
“With nursing staff caring for the vulnerable and often dealing with the darker side of the night scene in London, investment in a 24-hour entertainment culture needs to be matched by increased investment in supporting health and other public workers to be able to afford safe and efficient transport.
“When finishing late at night or into the early hours our members tell us they will opt to take much longer trips on one mode of transport to save money, rather than the quickest and safest route which may involve taking buses, a tube and even a tram.”
“A lot of the interventions to date have focused on supporting the entertainment side of the night-time economy”
Dr Enora Robin
The demands on the mayor come as RCN London and the research team launch a new campaign to raise awareness of the issues facing night-workers amongst the public and push policy-makers into making the night-time economy more “worker-friendly”.
Launching this weekend, the ‘Who makes London run after dark?’ campaign will see the distribution of specially made leaflets to members of the public along the Victoria line, which tell the story of nurses who work at night, detailing their struggles of getting to and from work during unsocial hours.
Throughout the summer, campaigners will be joining commuters on night tubes and buses across the capital.
Under the campaign, the research team will also be producing a series of special films that will recount the experiences of three of the capital’s nurses and a junior doctor who work at night.
One nurse who works in a trauma centre is South London has spoken out about the challenges of having to rely on infrequent buses and overcrowded services during rush-hour.
Nurse Rumer Gray said: “I work shifts in a busy trauma centre which can finish at any time between 1am and 8am.
“During the week, this means I am either travelling home in the early hours when there are no tubes and I have to rely on infrequent night buses, which can take up to twoi hours, or during rush-hour when I sometimes struggle to even squeeze myself on board.
“After a long night caring for patients who are seriously ill, this can be exhausting and demoralising. It feels like we health workers are a key part of making London a 24-hour city but aren’t really treated as such.”
“The mayor continues to call on employers to step up and ensure the welfare of their employees”
Mayor of London spokesman
Dr Enora Robin, a UCL researcher involved the campaign with RCN London, said: “It has been very encouraging to see the mayor think seriously about what happens in London at night and over the past year, real efforts have been made to find out more about who is making London run after dark.
“However, a lot of the interventions to date have focused on supporting the entertainment side of the night-time economy, and whilst the arts and creative sector are huge contributors to London’s identity and culture, it is now time to recognise that without key workers in healthcare, office cleaning, security, transport, logistics, to name only a few, London would grind to a halt.”
Dr Robin said issues of low-paid work, accessible and reliable transport and health and safety needed to be “fully integrated in night-time policies”.
She added that getting representatives of the health and care sector involved in shaping night-time strategies would be a first step towards getting them right.
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said Mr Khan was “committed” making London work for night workers and that’s why he had set up the Late-Night Transport Working Group.
“He is proud to have already made travel more affordable for Londoners by freezing [Transport for London] fares for four years and introducing the Hopper bus fare, and continues to call on employers to step up and ensure the welfare of their employees by paying them the London living wage,” he added.