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Trust puts unpopular nursing shift change on hold


A hospital trust in the North East has stepped back from controversial changes to nursing shifts that would potentially have seen many staff working an extra shift every four weeks.

Under the changes, nursing and midwifery staff working 12-hour shift patterns at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would have taken 60 minutes of breaks a day instead of 30 minutes.

“This is a fantastic result”

Roaqah Shaher

It would have resulted in a shortfall of three hours a week and meant staff would work a “catch up” shift to balance their hours every four weeks – effectively requiring nurses and healthcare assistants to work for an extra six hours per month to make up for the unpaid breaks added to the rota.

The trust, which originally planned to introduce the shift changes in January, claimed they would have seen more nursing staff on the wards.

But it met with strong opposition from nursing staff, backed by unions. An online petition was also launched that was signed by over 4,500 people, including Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald.

The shift changes were then delayed until June to allow staff to voice their concerns in a two-week staff consultation.

However, just before Easter, the trust’s chief executive Siobhan McArdle sent a special briefing to staff revealing her decision to put the changes on hold.

She said it had become “very apparent that not only are we highly unlikely to reach agreement on the planned introduction of the shift pattern changes through our current consultation process, but that we are also stuck in an unconstructive conversation”.

Royal College of Nursing

Trust puts unpopular nursing shift change on hold

Roaqah Shaher

As a result, she said the decision had been taken to close the consultation on the proposed changes and postpone their introduction.

Roaqah Shaher, lead Royal College of Nursing representative and chair of staff side, described the latest move as “a fantastic result”.

“Everyone is so relieved,” she said. “This was only possible because we all stood together to oppose something that was recognised by the management as being ultimately unfair on hard-working staff.”

She noted that unions had undertaken their own consultations with members to ensure that management understood exactly how the trust’s proposals were both unworkable and unfair.

Ms Shaher added: “The potential damage to both patient safety and staff morale has also been averted and this is to be welcomed.”

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Trust puts unpopular nursing shift change on hold

Gill Hunt

In a statement, trust director of nursing Gill Hunt, said: “We remain committed to the principles which underpin the proposed shift pattern changes namely to ensure patient safety, staff health and wellbeing and to ensure our rosters are efficient and fair.

“We are concerned about claims made regarding patient safety, as one of our main drivers is to have more nurses on the wards and ensure staff have adequate rest breaks during their working day,” she said.

She added: “We will be launching a programme of work with frontline staff to transform the services we deliver in the best interests of patients, staff and the organisation as a whole.”


Readers' comments (5)

  • I think they are lucky at the moment but I have not doubt the change will be pushed through eventually. Many hospitals already operate the (often mythical) 'one hour break' rule and make their staff work an extra shift once in every four week rota.

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  • A 30 minute break in a 12 hour shift isn't enough, and is probably illegal anyway.

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  • So glad to be leaving all this crap

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  • what facilities are there to make this 1 hour break meaningful restful and beneficial for staff. At our hospital we do not have a canteen apparently vending machines greggs and a small A&E coffee bar is adequate for thousands of staff and visitors and we don't have anywhere near enough staff rooms and rest areas so an hours break would just add to stress. An extra shift a month for no extra pay however is just what management would love.

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  • Do they really only have one half hour break a shift or do they have a paid 15min break in the morning and a paid 15 minute break in the afternoon? With a half hour lunch break?
    At our hospital we have two half hour breaks a day. And have to work the extra day a month.

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