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Carter: working to rule 'could really hurt trusts' trying to make cuts


Nurses could effectively employ work to rule style tactics in their fight against cuts in order to bypass lengthy legal hoops for industrial action, the Royal College of Nursing’s leader has suggested.

The RCN chief executive and general secretary spoke following a speech to the union’s 2011 congress, in which he said that “never before” had so many nurses spoken to him about industrial action and that “all avenues must remain open”.

“It’s a long way to go before industrial action, but it would be disingenuous of me not to have reflected to congress what people are saying to me,” he told a press conference.

However he suggested nurses could make lives tough for trusts by sticking to the exact terms of their contracts – backed by the support of the union if employers tried to enforce additional work.

Mr Carter said: “Some of the issues we’ve talked about are [nurses] just working their contracted hours. Independent surveys demonstrate that most nurses work the equivalent of an extra shift a week. It’s not staying on after work to do the paperwork. It’s about demanding meal breaks, and us persisting in our endeavours in taking on grievances [for nurses].”

Asked how quickly the union could take official action if the move was backed by members, he said: “If there’s a move for this, we have to work through our regional networks. We would have to devise a strategy, and then there’s a whole legal framework that we would have to go through.

“Whereas, if you take something like people simply saying something like, ‘well I’m entitled to a meal break, so I’m going to get it,’ sometimes that’s a more effective strategy.

“Rather than going into industrial action, [taking your meal break is] what you should be doing. And if trusts are preventing people from taking their meal breaks it’s about us going into dispute with them. And that could really hurt trusts.”

The purpose of this tactic would be “about upping the pressure” on trusts which were trying to save money by cutting staff and demanding the same amount of work, he said.

Mr Carter insisted the appetite for industrial action he had seen among some nurses was “not about pay”. “The vast majority of our members have come to terms with the two year pay freeze, it’s about seeing services cut,” he said.

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Readers' comments (23)

  • after the way we have been treated by this govt, we should all work our contracted hours only

    i do already, they get nothing extra from me

    the good will has gone and the nhs runs on the good will of nurses

    so stand up for yourself and work your contracted hours

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  • Too true I'm afraid! Goodwill has gone, I used to come in early etc not anymore. All need to work to rule.

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  • If the code of conduct says that we have to maintain accurate records and documentation, where do we stand if we just go home at the end of the shift without doing our paperwork because it was too busy to do it during the day? I'm all for work to rule and not doing non nursing duties though, but documentation legally needs to be done to protect our patients and ourselves.

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  • As a nurse with 31 years experience who is about to be made redundant I am certainly not doing anything more than my 37.5 hrs a week. I would never advocate any action which harms patients or puts PIN numbers at risk but we really do have to stand-up and be counted - where do I sign the petition?

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  • Well I for one have had enough and just secured a job with private sector - better pay better working hours and much better benefits see yah later NHS - did nothing much for me - its the patients I feel for !!!!

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  • Where's Mike? How come he hasn't responded to this? I would have thought we would be hearing STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! by now.

    I agree with the work to rule, but it is not easy as we have to cover our backs with documentation otherwise we are wide open to litigation.

    And good for you Anonymous 2:36pm, I am pleased you have found a job where you are satisfied and won't feel like a gofor in six months.

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  • Mike might be sick; sick and tired of the NHS. Or he might just be sleeping off his night shift. Give the man time!

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  • @Anonymous 'If the code of conduct says that we have to maintain accurate records and documentation, where do we stand if we just go home at the end of the shift without doing our paperwork because it was too busy to do it during the day?'

    You make a very good and important point. Most Trusts have procedures and policys in place to deal with this dilemma. Incident reporting (more paperwork!) is one example. However, nurses for too long have succumbed to this kind of short-termisim blackmail. I believe we need to take a more long term view in the patients best interests. Happy Nurse=Well cared for happy patients. Short term pain where we stand up for reasonable working conditions and proper staffing will have a long term benefit for patients and the nursing profession in general. There is a law of diminishing returns at play at the moment where you give a highly trained nurse so much work to do that their skills become irrelevant as they have no time to use them, in which case you may as well have any joe soap off the street doing the same job.

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  • Do the paperwork timely. That's what the shift is designed for, easier than it sounds I know but necessary. Anything else is up to the next shift coming on or for the trust to put more staff on. Any emergencies attend but put in incident forms. Every time and keep a copy. Work with union backing.

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  • anonymous 12-April 5.44pm
    The day shift is so busy and flat out all day that we often don't get any time at all to do paperwork until the end. I do what I can as I go, but we often find ourselves writing up at the end of a 12.5hr shift.

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