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RCN leader issues strike warning over out of hours pay


The leader of the Royal College of Nursing has warned of possible strike action over plans to dilute out of hours pay, as David Cameron re-iterates his commitment to creating a “truly seven-day NHS”.

In his first major speech since the election, the prime minister will say that by ensuring patients have access to free healthcare “whenever” and “wherever” they need it, the values of the NHS will be protected.

The “seven-day” service will include better access to GPs in the evenings and weekends, as well as improved access in hospitals.

To achieve this, he will say nurses and doctors must take a more flexible approach to work patterns.

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Prior to the election, the government put forward proposals to reduce unsocial hours payments to help fund the “seven-day service”.

The Department of Health claimed around £1.8bn per year was spent on unsocial hours payments to non-medical NHS staff, and that the system created a “potential barrier” to providing affordable care at the weekends and in evenings.

However, the speech accompanies a newspaper interview, published today, in which RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter issued a “strong warning” to the government that any attempt to cut unsocial hours payments would result in nurses taking industrial action.

In the interview with the Independent, he said: “I would particularly give a really strong warning to the secretary of state - any attacks on unsocial hours, weekend working payments, would be strongly resisted.”

“While we don’t want industrial action, I do feel that for nurses that would be a red line,” he added.

At Unison’s annual healthcare conference last month, members agreed to launch a campaign against cuts to unsocial hours payments, while warning they would ballot for strike action if the plans went ahead.

In his speech today, Mr Cameron will also re-state his commitment to the Conservatives’ pre-election pledge to increase investment in the NHS by an extra £8bn a year by 2020.

The £8bn figure is based on NHS England’s estimation that the health service will require an additional £30bn per year by 2020. It requires the NHS to deliver £22bn annual savings by 2020, alongside the £8bn investment.

Speaking at a GP centre today, Mr Cameron will say: “There is nothing that embodies the spirit of one nation coming together – nothing that working people depend on more – than the NHS. Our commitment is to free healthcare for everyone – wherever you are and whenever you need it.

“So I believe that together – by sticking to the plan – we can become the first country in the world to deliver a truly seven-day NHS.”

“I would particularly give a really strong warning to the secretary of state - any attacks on unsocial hours, weekend working payments, would be strongly resisted”

Peter Carter

In response to the prime minister’s speech today, an RCN spokesman added: “The Royal College of Nursing supports moves to ensure that any patient care is if the same standard at 9am on a Sunday morning as 9am on a Tuesday morning.

“To make this a reality, the health service needs sufficient resources to be able to provide enough staff when they are needed,” he said. “This includes all nursing, diagnostic, imaging, medical and support services.”

“We look forward to working with the government to identify what is needed and ensure that the NHS is safely staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

RCN Congress 2014

Peter Carter addresses RCN Congress 2014


Readers' comments (14)

  • A more flexible approach to work patterns? Is he having a giraffe? We all do 8:30 - 16:30 and the patients look after themselves during the other 16 hours?

    What a pretentious *****

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  • Strike action c/o RCN? You're having a joke rant you?

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  • Pussy

    DC means better consultant cover at the w/e and yes it's so true that patients are short-changed during these hours. Say what you like but it's fact and not only in the UK. It should have been addressed years ago.

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  • I completely agree that we need to deliver the same level of care out of hours and at weekends however, cutting unsocial hours enhancements will not achieve this. It will lead to further demoralisation of staff who lets face are already at the end of their tether. Nurses/medical and allied health care workers couldn't be anymore flexible. It is common practice to work nights/days/weekends and everything in between in the one week in a lot of areas. I don't they they can give anymore than they already are. You will lose a lot of staff if you forge ahead with this plan!

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  • In my area (General Practice), I have never received enhanced payments for weekend or late/early starts, but have been asked to work weekends for no extra money and reduce hours during the week to make up for it! How ridiculous is that. Just so we can be seen to offer weekend opening. The simple fact of the matter is, no matter how many hours you offer, it will never be enough and someone will be unhappy with it.

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  • I'll start by saying I am a retired nurse. I retired on April 1st and it's the best thing I have ever done so this no longer effects me. My wife however still works as a nurse doing 12 hour shifts. I feel this is the most important issue for nurses for years. Despite DC saying they are looking to reduce enhanced pay he really means stopping them. As others have said to do this properly it has to be all encompassing no more consultants on call no more ringing your G P and getting an out of hours service. When I did work, I was a community psychiatric nurse who worked weekends bank holidays xmas. Sometimes this was extremely frustrating as social services housing services etc typically do not work weekends and bank holidays,so many times you were left with people in severe need of these services and no one to turn to. If D C wants a true 7 day a week 365 day a year service he should maybe address this as well, as the NHS and other services often work hand in hand. If a strike is decided it has to be a proper strike which will hit hard and fast no messing about this time.
    I would also send a word of caution to the other public services i.e Police and Fire because if this succeeds you'll be next.

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  • I do hope more sensible voices will prevail in the Government. Far from cutting premiums for unsocial hours, NHS trusts would save money by improving them to attract dedicated staff to provide a seamless service, rather than relying on bank and agency personnel drafted in at great expense to fill gaping holes in cover, much of that money being wasted on fees.

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  • i work in a service where nursing care is 24/7, do they really think that wards shut up shop at 5pm on a friday and reopen at 9am the monday after, get a grip tories.

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  • I work in Primary care doing 35 hrs a week It extremely busy and demanding over the 5 days i work. With services ever increasing in the community to keep people ouit of hospital.
    I would like to know how we are supposed to provide a 24/7 NHS service with money only for 24/5 days/week The government will need to invest a shedload of money to get this to work. If one already works full time how can we possibly stretch the current service further? By watering down the current workforce?
    I can see strikes really on the horizon

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  • We're already flexible as hell. We get up at 6am, don't get home until 10pm (if we're lucky!), have extra patients, and put our own health at risk for the sake of long days, unsocial hours, and whoever enters the UK.

    Take our unsocial hours money off us, our right to strike off us, make us be even more flexible. You'll soon have even fewer nurses, because people will leave, and others will end up in beds needing nursed themselves, being for mental and/or physical burnout, or the numerous conditions research links directly to shift work.

    A little insight and research, some speaking to those on the floor who know best, before making sweeping decisions of which you know nothing about!

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