A new rota system being introduced for nurses in North Wales could result in staff working an extra unpaid shift each month, it’s been claimed.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) is behind the changes, which it says 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.
North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said some staff he had spoken to were considering quitting their jobs if it goes ahead.
The Plaid Cymru politician said: “Concerned nurses have contacted us because this proposal will backfire badly on the health board.
“The loss of goodwill among thousands of nurses who are already working under immense pressures will probably make matters worse.
“It’s no way to treat skilled, experienced and specialist staff and suggests a cost-cutting exercise promoted by accountants rather than people who understand what it’s like to work on a ward or specialist unit.
“I want BCUHB to reconsider this proposal. It is causing anxiety among staff who don’t need further stress in their working lives.
“Staff morale is already low; this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Many nurses currently take their breaks on wards or units and are effectively on call in an emergency.
But Mr Gruffydd warned the changes could lead to the loss of goodwill as staff choose to take their breaks elsewhere.
A petition has been launched against the move by Unite the Union, which has gathered more than 1,300 signatures.
Union officials said it would affect those working in secondary care as well as on children’s wards and within community hospitals.
They said: “Unite believes the the proposed rosters will have a detrimental effect on the work life balance of our members.
“New rosters will potentially impact on child care costs, travel costs, laundry and food costs.
“Unite will vehemently oppose the implementation of any rostered system that is a detriment to our members.”
It was recently revealed that similar changes were being explored at Leighton Hospital in Crewe.
In response to the concerns raised, a senior figure from Betsi Cadwaladr said some elements of the current rota system did not protect the safety of staff and patients.
They added that the new shifts were designed to remove any anomalies around break arrangements and would reduce the board’s reliance on agency staff.
Deborah Carter, acting executive director of nursing and midwifery, said: “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.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).