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Nurses threatened with disciplinary letter in lone worker dispute


Community nurses in Croydon have been handed disciplinary letters as employers ratchet up pressure in a row over the safety of lone workers, Nursing Times has learnt.

Croydon Health Services NHS Trust has told community staff funding cuts mean evening home visits must be carried out alone and not in pairs as they have done in the past (news, page 3, 4 October).

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing, who are supporting the nurses, had believed a compromise had been agreed with the trust, which allowed staff to travel in pairs after 7pm. But they said the trust has retracted this, offering instead 8pm.

The nurses argue their safety is at risk due to a recent shooting in the area and unease following the August riots. The trust has said, while it “appreciates” the concerns, it claims to have provided sufficient support in the form of monitoring devices and training.

Around 50 community nursing staff defied the directive when it came into force last Monday, holding a small protest and continuing to work in pairs.

However, the following night management handed staff disciplinary letters as they went on shift.

The letter, seen by Nursing Times, “expresses disappointment” that staff “refused to undertake a reasonable management instruction”.

The letter, from the trust’s assistant director of adult services Elaine Clancy, states: “It is my understanding that this refusal delayed visits to patients last night.

“This action can be deemed as a disciplinary matter and therefore will be fully investigated under the trust’s disciplinary policy.”

It adds that the “matter will be discussed” with union representatives.


Readers' comments (11)

  • This trust is like any other trust by the sounds of it... they don't give a damn about their workers! I wish them all luck and hope the community nurses are successful in their fight... I'd like to see the 9-5 non-clinincal beurocrats in their high offices go around in croyden at night, on their own, vulnerable in uniform, open for attack by gangs and thugs, going around on their own with things in their car boot! Absolutely disgusting!

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  • Perhaps a call to the Care Quality Commission may help?

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  • michael stone

    It is an interesting use of the word 'appreciates'.

    Reminds me of an e-mail exchange with a Police Inspector, when I pointed out that saying 'I am about to punch you in the face, but I will do it sensitively' is distorting the use of language beyond breaking point.

    This is, however, typical of the 'my behaviour looks reasonable from my perspective' thing, which is at the root of almost all such disputes. I suggest the nurses concentrate on a health and safety approach to this one - arguing that they can prove (by asking each other) that this is causing them mental anxiety, informing the management of that, and pointing out that if any nurse subsequently goes off sick for stress-related reasons, that will be raised !

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  • Stick to your guns guys! The trust cannot get away with threatening you like this; they don't legally have a leg to stand on and they know it! Remember, without you, they have no service! Take them to court if you have to, and watch them back down as quickly as the NMC recently did in a similar attack!

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  • Natalie Jewell

    So what was the reason for the old policy if the health and safety of staff doesn't count now? We've had budget cuts for years - there must be a reason this measure hasn't been taken previously. Oh yes, that would be because of the risks.
    It's okay for people sitting in ivory towers to send those on the ground out to potentially dangerous visits because it's not their own life at risk.
    I hope these community nurses keep fighting this case because if anything happens to them the trust will carry on long after their demise. No one is indispensable.

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  • michael stone

    mike, are you absolutely certain of your:

    The trust cannot get away with threatening you like this

    ? It definitely shouldn't be able to get away with it - but the Police get away with a lot of things, they shouldn't be able to get away with ! Depends who has the power and the biggest stick, much of the time !

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  • Sorry but I'm going to be a little controversial here. A common sense approach would be to risk assess evening visits and take them on their individual merits. Not ALL evening visits may need 2 staff and professionals usually know their clients and the area they work in. If they feel nervous in any way e.g. a new visit or community upheaval etc they should have the choice/option of going with someone and not be made to feel guilty. There are lots of emergency measures such as lone worker procedures; red flag advance warning if risks are already known; alarm systems etc. Perhaps a one size doesn't fit all might be necessary on this occasion. I certainly feel that management could have used a better approach than bully boy tactics. Not very morale boosting I have to say and how childish - whatever happened to negotiation and support of your staff? Regardless if they agree with their actions or not a group protest says something is wrong. Perhaps some statistics might help their cause? I'm not taking sides by the way - just some thoughts!

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  • As others have said, stick to your guns. You are the staff who know your patch and the risks. Don't allow a situation to develop where the only way management learn the lesson, is after one or more of you are hurt.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 11-Oct-2011 5:56 pm

    This piece was a follow-up to another piece on the same subject.

    I commented elsewhere, that if the nurses involved were personally unhappy about single visits, they shouldn't be forced to make them.

    Which seems to be your position - and GPs often make unacompanied visits to the homes of patients. But forcing nurses to make unacompanied visits, when doing that stresses out the nurses, is sheer madness !

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  • Lets put it this way, do police go around in twos around croyden after a certain hour? I think they most certainly do! And although I'm not up on police news I've got a feeling no one is asking them to give up that policy. And no one tell me it is because they are going into more potentially dangerous places because a lot of home dynamics means that community nurses are potentially entering these dangerous places too. Not to mention "rough" areas. Especially when recently statistics show nurses are more likely than any other public sector worker to be attacked. This is seriously worrying!

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