Nurses should turn up for work as usual and not volunteer to do work usually done by doctors during planned industrial action over pensions this week, nursing unions have advised.
Members of the British Medical Association are due to undertake industrial action on 21 June. GPs and hospital doctors will be at their normal place of work but will only be undertaking “urgent” or “emergency” duties.
Guidance issued last Friday by the Royal College of Nursing’s employment relations department states that its members, including agency staff and students, should attend their place of work as normal, as failure to do so is “likely to be a breach of contract”.
“Your employer is required to provide work for you to do. If you attend work and there is no work, or less work, for you to do you should remain at work and your employer must still pay you. This is the case if you are employed directly by a GP or by the NHS,” the RCN guidance advised members.
It added that RCN members “should not volunteer” to cover the work of medical colleagues taking part in the action, but said they were “obliged to carry out any reasonable, contractual, requirements of their employer”.
“Where care has not been able to be delivered as per normal this should be recorded in the patients nursing record with a full explanation of why care was not given as planned,” the RCN guidance said.
“If there are complaints from patients or clients about the delivery of services these should be processed through the employers’ normal complaints procedure.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Royal College of Midwives advised its members “not to do anything to undermine the industrial action by doctors” set for Thursday and “to work as normal”.
Jon Skewes, RCM director of employment relations and development, said: “This is legitimate action by our BMA medical colleagues and we respect their decision. We are advising our members to work as normal but not to undertake work that would undermine the BMA action.
“Midwives have a profound sense of duty to the women and babies they look after, and they will continue to deliver the best care possible on the day.”
The RCM has already accepted the government’s pension offer, following a membership consultation.
Mr Skewes said: “Our members voted to accept the government’s pension offer and with reluctance the RCM board agreed. It is the best deal that could be obtained by negotiation. We will therefore be engaging with other NHS unions on the implementation of the pensions offer accepted by RCM members.”
The union Unite, which has rejected the pension deal, said its members would be showing “solidarity with the BMA doctors” by leafleting, joining picket lines and attending lunchtime meetings.
Unite’s head of health, Rachael Maskell said: “The doctors’ fight should be seen in the context of NHS pensions generally which are not generous.
“Half of NHS employees will receive at or below £4,087 per year when they retire. Many NHS employees are women whose pensions would have been reduced by career breaks.”
She added: “What ministers are imposing is nothing short of a tax on NHS employees.”