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Talks over NHS Direct weekend working dispute to continue

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The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed moves by NHS Direct to try and resolve a dispute over plans to make nurses work more weekends.

The two sides are to hold talks to try and find a way of working out issues over changes to the working patterns of around 80 part time nurses individually, after a collective grievance hearing last Thursday proved inconclusive.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, about 40 of the affected nurses lodged a collective grievance. It was sparked when the telephone triage service introduced changes to rotas requiring nurses working part time for the service to work five weekends out of eight – in line with full time employees – rather than on a pro rata basis.

NHS Direct insists it needed all of its nursing staff to work the full five  weekends to drive improvements in call-back times during what are the service’s busiest periods. The service was recently fined £1.1m for failing to meet key performance indicators agreed with its commissioners.

The RCN says staff are prepared to be flexible where they can, but other commitments made the changes unworkable for many of the staff affected.

RCN employment relations officer Gary Kirwan said the union was “happy” with the result of last Thursday’s hearing and claimed the dispute was upheld.

“We agreed we would try to move forward to resolve all of the individual problems between their managers and themselves,” he said.

However, an NHS Direct spokeswoman told Nursing Times the requirement for nurses to work more weekends was still on the table.

She said: “Following the collective dispute hearing on weekend working for part time front line staff, the Royal College of Nursing and NHS Direct’s management team agreed to work together immediately to develop a ‘fast track’ method of considering issues relating to weekend working for each individual employee party to the dispute.”

More talks were due to take place on Tuesday.

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