Shadow heath secretary Andy Burnham has pledged not to cut unsocial hours payments for NHS staff if Labour wins the general election, but said he still planned to introduce a “seven-day service” that provides care for people at whatever time they require.
He told the Unison annual healthcare conference in Liverpool today that extending the hours of operation of the NHS would make it a “21st century service,” but that this would not be done “on the backs of NHS staff”.
“Labour will protect unsocial hours payments,” said Mr Burnham in his keynote speech at the conference. “Because if you are to build a seven-day service – that is the way you build a seven-day service.
“By respecting people, by recognising that if you are working the most difficult shifts you might have to use your car because public transport may not be available or you might have to get a bit of extra childcare for your kids,” he said.
“You need to protect unsocial hours payments if you are to get the goodwill of people to embrace different ways of working”
When asked by a Unison member to assure workers that unsocial hours pay would be maintained even if the NHS Pay Review Body proposed it be cut, the shadow health secretary suggested Labour would introduce a review of Agenda for Change.
But he re-iterated his promise that unsocial hours payments would be protected as part of any changes to the system.
He later told Nursing Times that Labour planned to protect unsocial hours payments and fund the seven-day service through savings made by reducing the NHS’s reliance on high-cost private agency staffing.
Mr Burnham said spending on agency staffing would be reduced because the party had committed to training 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 extra midwives for the NHS.
“It [unsocial hours payment] is crucial to build a seven-day service. To try and do it on the backs of staff and with goodwill non-existent, then it would be a disaster,” he told Nursing Times.
“You need to protect unsocial hours payments if you are to get the goodwill of people to embrace different ways of working,” he added.
More stories from the conference:
- Union members threaten action over proposed cuts to out of hours pay
- Healthcare students should be paid ‘living wage’ while on placement
- Conference told that downbanding staff is ‘scourge’ of health service
- ‘No improvement over safe staffing’, indicates nurse survey
Find out which party has pledged what about nursing and the NHS on the Nursing Times’ special 2015 election web page