Nurses are set to demonstrate outside a major London hospital this evening in protest against the perceived threat of cuts to unsocial hours pay.
The protest has been called in response to proposals from the Department of Health to introduce “affordable out of hours working arrangements”, in order to make the NHS a truly “seven-day service”.
The proposals were made earlier this year by the DH in a submission to the independent NHS Pay Review Body, as part of wider plans to reform Agenda for Change.
“As nurses and health workers, we intend to protest these damaging proposals”
Improving both access to NHS services and treatment outcomes in the evenings and at weekends was stated by NHS England as one of its aims last autumn.
Making the NHS a seven-day service has also subsequently become an election issue, with the three main parties having all said they support the idea. Labour is the only one so far to promise to “protect unsocial hours payments” on the way to achieving it.
- NHS out of hours pay ‘safe’ under Labour, despite move to ‘seven-day service’
- Cameron pledges to make NHS ‘seven-day’ service in five years
- Union members threaten action over proposed cuts to out of hours pay
- DH proposes dilution of unsocial hours payments for nursing staff
The organisers of the Hands Off Our Pay protest have called on nurses to rally outside St Thomas’ Hospital at 5.30pm today to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed changes to unsocial hours remuneration.
They argue that the enhanced payments for working nights, weekends and bank holidays make the difference between living and surviving for many health workers.
Cutting them would “precipitate a collapse in morale” and an “exodus of nurses” from the NHS, at a time when it is already short of nursing staff, said the protest’s organisers, who have urged staff taking part to wear their uniforms.
“As nurses and health workers, we intend to protest these damaging proposals. This is the final straw and an insult to health workers across the NHS who daily struggle to care for the nation’s sick against a mounting tide of cutbacks and privatisations,” they said in a statement.
“The trust security team will ensure the main entrance is kept clear”
The demonstration is being supported by the trust’s branch of Unite and also the union’s regional branch for London.
In a letter sent to staff ahead of the protest the trust’s workforce director Ann Macintyre noted that the rally was not an official strike and, therefore, nurses had no legal protection to leave work to do take part and must request leave from their manager.
The strongly-worded letter – seen by Nursing Times – also reminded nurses that the wearing of uniforms in public places outside of the trust was “not acceptable” and may lead to disciplinary action.
It also warned that anyone gathering outside the hospital’s main entrance to take part in the rally would be asked by security staff to move away from trust premises.
“Access to the hospital must be maintained at all times and the organisers of the rally have called for people to assemble outside St Thomas’ main entrance. This is not permitted,” stated the letter.
However, Ms Macintyre said the trust recognised it was a “difficult time for staff in the context of the financial challenges the NHS faces and when not all staff have received a pay award this year”.
Meanwhile, a petition started by a nurse on the issue of unsocial hours pay has gathered over 137,000 signatures.