Staff affected by a “vanguard” new care model in Greater Manchester have voted to strike later this month over changes that unions have warned could see support workers given potentially dangerous tasks like administering controlled drugs, it has been revealed.
Unison, which represents 230 council and NHS staff involved in the Stockport Together vanguard, said the decision to take stike action follows seven months of negotiations. The industrial action is set to take place on 27 April. The union said 96% of respondents to a ballot voted to strike.
“The plans involve piling more duties on to unqualified workers”
The staff concerns emerged in January and presented further difficulties for a project that had already been scaled back from initial plans to form a single accountable care organisation.
The project partners – including Stockport Foundation Trust, Stockport Council and Stockport Clinical Commissioning Group – have instead focused on establishing integrated community teams working under an “alliance contract” between providers.
The project has been allocated £23m of transformation funding over four years by national and regional leaders.
However, union members are concerned about a planned expansion of unqualified support workers, as well as a reduction to the availability of services during peak times, according to Health Service Journal.
“We are disappointed in the response of trade union colleagues after engaging in several productive meetings”
Stockport Together spokesman
Wendy Allison, Unison’s North West regional organiser, said: “The plans involve piling more duties on to unqualified workers – including tasks like administering controlled drugs such as morphine. This is unfair to staff and potentially dangerous to patients.
“If the proposals are introduced, our members fear someone could die or be seriously harmed,” she said. “Staff are very dedicated to their work and to their patients, and it is for that reason that they have reluctantly decided they have to take strike action.
“To avert a strike, Stockport Together managers urgently need to take staff concerns seriously and come up with a safe and sustainable alternative,” she added.
Ms Allison said talks were due to take place on Monday through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – more commonly known via its acronym as ACAS.
A spokesman for Stockport Together said: “This is about improving services for local people and that is at the heart of our efforts to create a sustainable, quality future for local residents.
“We are, therefore, disappointed in the response of trade union colleagues after engaging in several productive meetings over the past few months as we look to resolve all outstanding issues,” he said.
Vanguard sites were set up across England between January and September 2015 by NHS England, with a view to creating more locally integrated care models.
According to the national body, the 50 vanguards were selected from over 250 applications to take a lead on developing new care models that will act as the “blueprints for the NHS moving forward”.
However, the idea has also been dogged by fears that it will merely lead to cost-cutting and the loss of services.