Nurses working for NHS Direct have lodged a collective grievance after being told they will have to work more weekends in a bid to improve the organisation’s performance.
About 80, mostly band 6, nurses who work for the triage service on a part time basis are affected by the rota changes, Nursing Times understands.
They will require part time staff to work five weekends out of eight, the same number as full time staff. Currently the number of weekends worked by part time staff is worked out on a pro rata basis.
NHS Direct chief nurse Tricia Hamilton said the rota changes were needed to cope with an increase in demand at weekends.
She said: “We appreciate that this may not be a welcome change for some of our staff and we are doing everything we can to support them and answer any questions they may have.”
The service has recently been fined £1.1m and issued with a warning for persistently failing to meet all of the key performance indicators (KPIs) set out in its contract. At the end of March, it was failing to meet 17 of its 30 performance indicators, including time to clinical assessment for less urgent and non-urgent calls.
NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman told a recent board meeting that high demand at the weekends was a factor in failing to meet these indicators.
But Royal College of Nursing employment relations officer Gary Kirwan said the imposed rota changes were “damaging morale”.
He said: “Because NHS Direct are facing problems with meeting their KPIs… what they have proposed is that all part time staff will work the same weekend arrangements as full time staff.
“Many of these part time staff have got care arrangements where they would find it very difficult,” he told Nursing Times.
The dispute has gone to stage three of the grievance process, meaning members of the NHS Direct board will hold a hearing to listen to nurses concerns and recommendations.
Mr Kirwin added: “What we want to happen is instead of saying ‘we will do this’, they actually engage with staff.