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Work to rule action will mean nurses withdraw their goodwill

  • 10 Comments

Working to rule is the most favoured method of industrial action among the 5,185 nurses and midwives who took part in Nursing Times’ exclusive survey.

Asked what duties they would refuse to do as part of formal industrial action, 59 per cent of respondents said they would refuse to work unpaid overtime and 53 per cent said they would insist on leaving the ward or clinic for breaks - something nurses in practice are often unable to do.

If working to rule consists of taking appropriate breaks and not working too many hours, organisations will have to deal with that

Just over half said they would refuse to carry out non-nursing duties such as cleaning and portering - another role nurses are frequently asked to do when workplaces are short staffed.

Four out of 10 said they would refuse to carry out administrative duties.

A nurse consultant from one London hospital told Nursing Times that it was acceptable to inconvenience a patient by working strictly to rule.

She said: “Patient safety obviously you would never compromise - if there’s a patient [who] needs taking to the other end of A&E and there’s no porter, you would do it. But if people say ‘I’m not doing any photocopying’, it might inconvenience [the patient] but it wouldn’t put anyone in danger.”

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She said nurses frequently showed “goodwill” by either not talking their breaks at the right time or forgoing them altogether. “It would cause considerable disruption if [that goodwill] was withdrawn,” she said.

The scale of potential disruption is heightened by the finding that only 15 per cent of respondents would rule out industrial action and one in five said they would refuse to work in “non-urgent” outpatient clinics.

King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust director of nursing Geraldine Walters said: “If working to rule consists of taking appropriate breaks and not working too many hours, organisations will have to deal with that.

“However, other actions, such as refusing to carry out administrative duties or outpatients [clinics] seem more designed to punish organisations.

“Unfortunately, in these instances, the only people who would really be inconvenienced at the end of the day would be the patients.”

Ms Walters admitted NHS employers did rely on the “good faith” of nurses to work beyond their contracts, but she said nurses were unlikely to be the only staff group that applied to.

  • 10 Comments

Readers' comments (10)

  • And why shouldn't we?

    Nurses have had our good will used against us with emotional blackmail for far too long. For example ... “Unfortunately, in these instances, the only people who would really be inconvenienced at the end of the day would be the patients.” Bull.

    So what if patients are inconvienienced? Is that our responsibility as individual Nurses, or is it the responsibility of management to make sure enough staff are there in the first place?

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  • "..other actions, such as refusing to carry out administrative duties - seem more designed to punish organisations."
    What a load of rubbish. Nurses are not administrative staff although one cannot be blamed for thinking so considering the amount we do. Doing our job is not punishing anyone, doing everyone else's job which impacts on ours could be seen as harming patients. So what we are really doing is what we should have been doing all along - caring for patients.

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  • Good of Ms Walters to admit what nurses have known all along that NHS employers rely on the “good faith” of nurses to work beyond their contracts, but then she goes on to say that nurses are unlikely to be the only staff group this applies to.
    I would be interested to know what other staff groups within the NHS don’t take proper lunch breaks and never finish a shift on time. Working in the community I regularly do not get back to the office until 17.00 for the obligatory stack of paperwork and telephone calls. During my working day 08.00 to 18.00 I have occasion to contact clinics, GP surgeries or other support agencies on a patients’ behalf but often because the department is either closed for lunch, closed on weekends and bank holidays or shuts promptly at 16.30 with no telephone facilities to leave a message I get nowhere. Perhaps these departments have right idea!

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  • Yes, I too regularly go without lunchbreak and finish up to 2 hours late everyday. Trying to redress this is futile. My Manager just tells us, we are not prioritising. Rubbish. The workload is far too much and there is never any back up from management. Despite all the goodwill giving. If I knew then, what I know now, I would never have trained to be a nurse. NHS = Overworked, undervalued and huge blame culture.

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  • goodwill as many indicate keeps the NHS functioning, however it does not support staff who are reduced to tears over the frustrations when dealing with management, too often we here 'we do not prioritise our workload' yet when asked for support and direction their would seem to be no answer. 'work to rule' may be the wayt forward but we need patients behind us- because at the end of the day they are what mattrers & thats why we do the job. however, we should not be made to feel like a second class profession, it is time we stood up and were counted. I often wonder what purpose my union memebership serves other that insurance cover, Will the RCN ever have any back bone?

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  • Anonymous | 27-Jul-2010 9:04 pm, No the RCN will never have a backbone; not with the current bunch of self serving egotists in charge anyway.

    I think in any strike action or work to rule, the patients will be behind us for the large part, as they will have to realise we are fighting for their care as well.

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  • Martin Gray

    Just how many nurses are there working in the UK? Yet only 5185 bothered to respond to this survey which provided a golden opportunity to give them a voice! I wonder if this is a case of 'what can I do' syndrome.

    There is currently so much turmoil and upheaval in the NHS, with some very strange plans relating to changing roles; at the end of the day patients and their relatives will only be concerned about the satndard of care that is provided to them [the patients]. Ergo patients will have to be affected by any industrial acftion taken in order to get them on our side.

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  • I’m one of the 5185 nurses that responded to the survey as I’m fed up with all the unpaid hours I do, no thanks given by my manager, just trite phrases such as “poor time management” or you should “learn to prioritise” and the one time I specifically asked if I could leave on time as I had a GP appointment I was told NO! and my manager’s parting shot was “ you don’t become a nurse to leave on time”

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  • Managers that say that we miss breaks, or go off duty late due to poor time management or a need to prioritise, say this in order to deflect the blame for it onto us.

    Working to rule could be really effective if we all stuck together and ignored the emotional blackmail managers would use, but nurses don't stick together do they. I know that nurses are afraid for their jobs, but they can't single people out so easily if everyone is saying the doing the same thing.

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  • Unfortunately, many nurse managers are making it easier for the Government to deliver their agenda.

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