NHS Direct nurses who faced a pay cut if they transferred to the new NHS 111 service have now been told their salary will be protected for at least a year.
The non-emergency NHS 111 phone number is due to replace NHS Direct’s 0845 number from next March.
North East Ambulance Service and Northern Doctors Urgent Care won the contract to provide the service across the whole of the North East.
However, as revealed by Nursing Times earlier this month, they have been refusing to take on NHS Direct staff based in the region under their existing terms and conditions.
This was because they were awarded the 111 contract before the Department of Health announced Cabinet Office guidelines would apply to NHS Direct staff, protecting their terms and conditions.
Staff had been asked to volunteer to transfer in two waves, and nurses on band 6 of Agenda for Change were originally told they would be moved to a band 5.
However, the situation has now changed, Nursing Times can reveal. A spokeswoman for the North East Ambulance Service Foundation Trust said in a statement that NHS Direct staff would have their existing salary preserved on a sliding scale.
Employees with less than two years of service will have their salary protected for one year, those with between two and five years’ service will get two years protection and those with more than five years’ service will get four years’ protection.
Funding for the protection has been provided by the commissioners, NHS County Durham and Darlington.
The spokeswoman added: “No provision was made for the transfer of NHS Direct staff to NHS 111 when we were awarded the contract, but we have worked closely with commissioners and NHS Direct to ensure that opportunities are provided for NHS Direct staff to work with us on NHS 111.
At an NHS Direct board meeting earlier this week it emerged there were also issues with staff transfers in Derbyshire, where NHS Direct’s 0845 number was switched off earlier this month.
NHS Direct staff have been seconded to 111 provider Derbyshire Health United Ltd on a temporary basis while a decision is reached on the application of the guidelines in consultation with the DH.
However, in Norwich 14 staff have transferred to East of England Ambulance Service in line with the Cabinet Office’s guidelines.
Human resources director Roger Rawlinson told the board that staff in the North East had been “messed around”.
He said: “I would like to convey to the board our utter exasperation [with the situation].”