Members of the union Unite Wales are set to demonstrate at a meeting of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) this morning.
The demonstration is part of Unite’s campaign opposing changes to the rosters of BCUHB nurses, healthcare support workers and operating department practitioners.
A rota system is being introduced for nurses in North Wales which, it is claimed, could result in staff working an extra unpaid shift each month.
BCUHB says the changes are designed to standardise shift patterns, break times and handover periods.
However, employees say the proposals suggested by external consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers would mean a nurse currently working 12 and a half hours will now be unpaid for an hour of their time.
The move is expected to affect thousands of nurses and health care support workers in secondary care across the region, who would need to work extra hours to make up for the loss of some of their paid breaks.
The demonstration by affected staff and their supporters will take place outside the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board meeting in Conwy at 9am today.
Gareth Parry, Unite BCUHB branch chair, said:
“At the heart of this demonstration there is a matter of trust and confidence for BCUHB nurses. It is widely recognised that nurses already forgo their breaks in the name of patient care. Introducing an extra unpaid 30 minute break that they can’t take during each shift, risks further exploiting nurses’ professional dedication to their vocation and patients.
To add insult to injury nurses will also be required to work back these untaken breaks at a later date to maintain their current pay. This proposal will do nothing to improve nurse morale, retention or patient care.
Unite can also foresee that other groups of dedicated healthcare professionals and support staff who work similar shift patterns, could well be next if this proposal is implemented by BCUHB management.
The Unite Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board branch is calling on the board to intervene and withdraw this proposal.
The priority for BCUHB should be to ensure that nurses and others staff are able to take their current breaks in full before implementing an ill judged proposal, which will make BCUHB more reliant on its dedicated nurses working for nothing.”
Deborah Carter, acting executive director of nursing and midwifery, told the Local Democracy Reporter service last month:
“We have spent time understanding the current state of our nursing rosters, including the handover periods, break allocation and shift lengths.
Unwarranted variance was identified whereby some rosters were not consistent with best practice and potentially did not protect the health and safety of our staff and patients to the degree we would like; in particular variation was found in shift patterns and in breaks allocated to staff.
The proposal currently being consulted on seeks to standardise shift patterns, handover durations, and break durations, across all our divisions.
Key to this proposal is ensuring that staff receive adequate breaks especially when they are working in longer shift patterns.
Finally, the proposals also provide an opportunity for us to reduce the reliance upon agency staff in the process.
This of course has a patient care and staff safety benefit as well as a financial benefit.”
She added that the health board would continue to work with staff and trade unions to address any concerns before the final plans are implemented.