A petition against the government’s proposed changes to unsocial hours payment for nurses and other NHS workers has attracted almost 100,000 signatures since it was started at the weekend.
In the few days since it was created, the online petition has received support from more than 95,000 people who oppose the reforms – which could see the additional payments staff receive for weekend and night shifts reduced or removed altogether.
Campaigners have called for the government to “keep [its] hands off” unsocial hours remuneration, claiming the majority of NHS staff rely on the money due to the current freeze on basic pay.
“NHS staff suffer more than those deciding their pay can ever imagine”
“NHS staff suffer more than those deciding their pay can ever imagine,” the petition states. “They are…working unsociable hours and 14-hour shifts. They have to pay to park at their workplace and all they want to do is help others,” it adds.
The petition, started by West Suffolk Hospital nursing assistant Abi Smith, goes on to highlight that NHS workers receive extra money for doing a “priceless job,” during bank holidays such as Christmas and New Year, which they spend with “complete strangers, with their patients and colleagues, helping to save lives”.
Last autumn the Department of Health asked the NHS Pay Review Body to look into “affordable out-of-hours working arrangements”, as part of wider plans to reform Agenda for Change.
It has now submitted proposals to the review body, which it claims could help make the NHS in England a “seven-day service”.
There are six options to modify unsocial hours payments. One suggestion is to eliminate the payments altogether – although an additional 10% of salary would be paid for night shifts falling between 8pm and 6am.
Other ideas include lowering the rate for Sundays and bank holidays, changing the days and times for which it is applied, or calculating the payments according to how flexible staff are.
Alternatively, the DH has suggested paying all staff the same set rate – rather than linking the top-up to salary band – or a major revision of Agenda for Change contracts as a whole, which would modify unsocial hours payments alongside progression pay.