North Wales health board’s failure to change course on nurses rosters “wholly unacceptable” says union
A union has said it is “deeply disappointed” to learn a health board will push ahead with plans to introduce a new rota system for nurses in North Wales which could result in staff working an extra unpaid shift each month.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) is behind changes, which it says are designed to standardise shift patterns, break times and handover periods.
Over the past two months, the health board has been consulting about changes to the rotas of over 4,000 nurses and health care support workers across the North.
The changes mean that frontline staff would see their shifts extended by an additional half-hour break for no extra pay, which will have an impact on nurses’ work-life balance and childcare arrangements.
Unite Wales regional secretary Peter Hughes said: “Unite is deeply disappointed to learn that BCUHB still intends to implement the draconian and wholly unacceptable changes to our members’ nursing rosters.
This flies in the face of the overwhelming opposition of both the board’s own employees and the wider public.
Their actions show that the health board has absolutely no intention of engaging in any meaningful consultation process with Unite over this hugely contentious issue.
We remain deeply opposed to the roster changes which are a fundamental attack on the terms and conditions of our members.
Unite will redouble its efforts and pursue every avenue available to us to ensure that BCUHB thinks again and drops these outrageous plans.”
The anticipated savings from the changes is £25,000 a month – just 2% of the agency nursing costs, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd said.
He handed a 3,500-name petition opposing the planned changes to BCUHB earlier this month, a further 3,500 people have signed Unite the Union’s petition on the same theme.
“This is clearly an issue that concerns thousands of people across the region who understand the fantastic work being carried out by our nurses and do not want them to be stretched even further by these proposed changes.
The board must scrap this proposal before it further undermines nursing morale and leads to more leaving the profession.” Said Mr Gruffydd.
In response to the concerns raised, a senior figure from Betsi Cadwaladr said in August 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.”
A health board spokesperson said: “The changes to nursing rotas are intended to protect the health and safety of nursing staff and to ensure that they are deployed in the most effective way.
“Making sure we have sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified staff to match the demands of our services will help to further improve safety and consistency of care.
“There are currently 100 different shift patterns in operation across the Health Board and a variance in unpaid breaks from no unpaid break to one hour 15 minutes.
“These changes will standardise shift patterns, handover durations and break durations across all divisions. As well as introducing a consistent system across the Health Board for the first time, we estimate that we will reduce our reliance on agency nursing staff and deliver £527,000 of savings.”
These changes will take effect as of January 2020 and the roster period will be extended to 12 weeks from the current four weeks to enable greater forward planning and to extend the period in which contracted hours must be worked.
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