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'Unsocial hours payment cuts will hit care as well as morale'


In its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body this year, the government expressed its intention to cut unsocial hours payments severely.

It has argued that this is necessary for the NHS to deliver its seven-day services vision.

I, like many other nurses, already undertake night and weekend work, and work on bank holidays. I accept that this is necessary to ensure patients receive high-quality care. However, there is a view among senior NHS decision-makers that “unsocial” simply means not being able to socialise with friends at the weekends.

They ignore the more severe effects that working unsocial hours has on home,  family and personal health. For example, there is evidence to suggest that working unsocial hours has a negative impact on nurses’ health and wellbeing. Pay enhancements help to compensate for  these sacrifices that nurses make on a daily basis.

Since the coalition government came to power, a band 5 nurse not at the top of their pay grade will have lost at least £2,832 from below-inflation pay rises. Unsocial hours payments have become a significant part of most NHS nurses’ salaries - one-third in most cases. Without them, many nurses would struggle to get by.

Some nurses are already in hardship and struggling to make ends meet - even with unsocial hours payments. Unison has been told by some NHS nurses that they’ve had to use food banks to manage until they get paid each month. If the government cuts unsocial hours rates, this will result in a huge cut in pay and the number of NHS nurses relying on food banks is likely to increase.

Alternatively, NHS nurses may need to increase the number of hours worked or take on a second job outside the NHS to compensate for the reduction in their pay. For nurses with children or caring responsibilities, this is likely to result in increased childcare or caring costs.

Many nurses are proud to work for the NHS because of its values - care at the point of need. However, this latest attack on nurses’ pay has left many feeling undervalued. NHS nurses are already at breaking point, and morale is at an all-time low. Not paying them fairly when they are working at night and over the weekend is the final straw.

Many nurses have already left the NHS, and others are now considering it. The health service is already experiencing recruitment difficulties, and this attack on unsocial hours rates will only make things worse. Because of high nurse vacancy rates, the NHS is heavily dependent on agency workers. Dependency on agency workers will increase if unsocial hours rates are cut because these staff will be required to cover hard-to-fill shifts. This will be expensive in terms of both finances and care quality.

In its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, Unison argued that the government’s proposals to cut unsocial hours rates would place serious limits on the ability of the NHS to deliver the seven-day services vision. If nurses are not getting paid extra for working nights, they might as well work days. Because the NHS will find it difficult to fill shifts, it will become over reliant on costly agency staff which will, in turn, have a detrimental impact on NHS spending.

Instead of cutting unsocial hours payments, I believe that there should be an uplift in unsocial hours rates. This would help motivate people to work out of hours, helping the NHS to achieve seven-day services. It would also help to offset cuts to basic pay. This would result in a highly motivated workforce capable of delivering outstanding patient care.

Ann Moses is chair of the Unison National Nursing and Midwifery Sector Committee


Readers' comments (9)

  • once again bullying nurses , we know the mps despise nurses, cant see politicians taking away unsocial payments to anyone else got to be discrimination

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  • So, we hear that 1. millions have been paid to agency nurses because, for some reason, there are not enough salaried nurses to keep the doors open. 2. The 1% increase in nurses salaries, recommended by the pay review body, may now be paid (weeks before the general election, not that I am cynical or anything) and 3. Enhancements are to be cut (that of course won't get any headlines). I despair! Badly paid, overworked pawns in a game of 'let's bandy about the NHS in the run up to the election'. Nurses are people who want to make a living doing a job they love but that precious few of the population would want to do. Take away the enhancements if you want but all you will do is pay even more to the agency nurses. A colleague was offered a £300 bonus (on top of her salary) to work a night shift by an agency. How is that sustainable in this economy. Just damn well pay a decent salary, honour your hard working staff and they will repay you with loyalty and even more (if that's possible) hard work. It really is shameful.

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  • we have had our shifts extended so we dont get unsocial hours, also our paid 15 minute break taken away lets take some money off execs and managers for our pay rise, better still make them work a few 12 hour nights on the front lines !!! they wouldnt last five minutes

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  • dont forget the "sell out" modern matrons too.

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  • If they take away unsocial hours even more of my colleagues will leave the profession.
    We already work the most unsociable hours ever with e-rostering. I don't understand what our trust management or government are trying to achieve, the destruction of the NHS. Very sad have worked for NHS since 1978 and never seen such sad times, morale so low, very sad.

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  • Today, it's reported David Cameron is asking for business leaders to give their workers a pay rise. My god that man has got some neck! His open disdain for public service workers knows no bounds. Our pay is so low now, that most nurses rely totally on their 'unsocial hours' pay to take home anything like a normal pay packet. The price we pay for it in terms of poor health, social isolation and extra cost and stress of finding childcare is enormous. Unbelievable.

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  • Warning, it will not get better under Labour. The Tories are honest, they hate 'socialised care' always have. Labour can be just as destructive. Think very carefully before voting, it may be a case of "out of the frying pan into the fire."

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  • if you keep swapping parties labour will come along and undo all of the improvements the tories are trying to make. just remember nothing will happen over night and all changes in the economy and the in organisations as large ass the NHS require a lot of time. don't hinder them, let them do their work but ensure your voice is heard and acted upon when it needs be.

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  • Twelve and a half hour shifts.10% deduction for 'breaks' even when sole nurse on duty,no unsocial hours/night shift/Bank Holiday enhancements,no paid sick leave.random night /day shift pattern,rotas issued with less than month notice,one nurse only A/L policy.This is the 'small print' of my job description.All nurses must do all they can to prevent this becoming the reality for all nurses in the future whether Private or Public Sector.

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