Draconian measures…. coming to a station near you…

Last week senior staffside received an email from Robert Morton, CEO, inviting us to a meeting to inform us about a range of actions the Executive team have considered necessary for patient safety.

The actions were described by Robert Morton in his email as ‘measures that may be viewed as controversial, unpalatable and even draconian.’

It’s incredibly disappointing that despite Board level promises, we continue to see no action to address retention issues. A crew in North Norfolk recently worked a 20.5 hour shift; which is completely unacceptable and in no way sustainable.

Positive change can only happen through positive actions and not through nice words and certainly not through measures that ‘may be viewed as controversial, unpalatable and even draconian.’

Earlier this year I received EMB (Executive management Board) papers, though a freedom of information request. One of the papers states:

Mr Robert Morton asked the group if there were areas which could be changed to improve performance. Mr Ashford suggested the following areas; Vehicle Daily Inspections (VDI), end of shift policy and the meal break policy were the biggest areas of concern for both performance and patient safety. He clarified that the staff impact would need managing for any changes in these areas. Mr Morton asked the group to come up with a wish list for later discussion which could be distilled for priorities and evidence provided.

We have the second worse staff retention rate in the UK Ambulance sector, (the worse being the London Ambulance Service); we need to see strong leadership to bring about positive changes and pull us out of the self perpetuating negative spiral we appear to be in. Any negative changes the trust decides to impose on staff that ‘may be viewed as controversial, unpalatable and even draconian,’ will certainly not help the situation.

We had put forwards a range of proposals several weeks ago, which we worked on with HR, to help reduce late finishes and address fatigue; we were told yesterday at the meeting with the Rob Ashford, Director of Service Delivery, that he has been too busy to read our proposals.

To date we have not received any feedback from the Executives on the proposal UNISON cowrote with the Trusts HR Health and Wellbeing Manager.

Our proposals include giving staff an additional 20 minutes undisturbed break and put in place a form of intelligent X-ray, which would genuinely help to reduce late finishes.

Yesterday the trust put forwards alternative proposals, which they want to put in place next week. We have asked if these measures will be ‘imposed’ and have not received any response.

The Trusts proposals remove the fixed meal break points, outline that staff will be stood down for a meal break within 5 minutes after greening up (regardless of travel time to facilities), and completely remove the end of shift policy.

The trust is further proposing to implement, commencing at the end of April, subject to performance improvements, a very diluted form of Intelligent Xray – ‘on a discretionary and individual basis, where they believe a staff member(s) is being exposed to unnecessary fatigue and/or excessive late finishes.’

The trusts proposals then increment at the end of May, to reduce the 45 minute meal break to x2 twenty minute breaks, as well as proposing further staggering of shift and finish times, something the trust has recently already completed – which was sold to staff as needed to help meal breaks and late finishes.

With hundreds of new staff coming into the trust, we had suggested any further shift changes could be planned with supportive/attractive shift patterns and staggered times for new staff – so existing staff did not have to go through yet more shift changes.

We are strongly opposed to the Trusts proposals and fail to see how removing fixed meal break points, reducing meal break times, or removing the end of shift policy will in anyway be helpful to staff. It’s very disappointing that the trust walked away from discussions and instead released this to staff.

It’s also very disappointing that despite the trust agreeing to pull the advert for ECAs and instead recruit student EMT, they have now partly rescinded this agreement and will be recruiting student EMTs as well as 150 ECA level staff.

We will campaign avery hard against any negative changes and continue to push for actions that lead to positive change.

Please add your name to the many hundreds of UNISON members who have supported our indicative ballot over late finishes. The ballot closes at the end of this week:

The Branch Committee is meeting next week to discuss this break down in consultation and next steps. We will keep you updated.

Kind regards,


Fraer Stevenson

UNISON Branch Secretary

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to

  1. Jason says:

    So we will be stood down for meal breaks within 5 mins of greening up after a job. Whether that’s a leave at home or a transfer most places are more than 5 mins away from a recognised facility to have meal breaks. So we will be forced to drive to one through OUR time? Legally we are entitled to our meal break. Is the trust choosing to ignore the law or are we now supposed to eat in the wagons with no access to drinks and cooking facilities? Surely we need toilet facilities? What about IPC measures when wanting to wash hands prior to eating sandwiches? Not every patients house is hygienically suitable for washing hands in either. Everyone will be going out of service contaminated, restocking, refueling, etc. It’s like working under the Gestapo.


  2. John says:

    It’s disgusting that the board have taken this line. Do they seriously expect me to be taking a break whilst driving to somewhere that I can hear my food, relax and use toilet facilities? They have lost the plot.

    Unison has my full support and anything I can do I will. Including fully supporting industrial action.


  3. Steve says:


    I’m confused, we only get 30mins and have been since roster redesign.


  4. matt says:

    glad Robert has shown his true colours before the cqc inspection. I will be sure to let them know all about these proposals.


  5. corey says:

    All I can say is DISGUSTING.
    Is this a further ploy to break staff’s morale and put more patients in queue at hospital when staff break down or have an Mi.


  6. ian says:

    I believe that as we work a 37.5 hours working week, the 8 hour and 12 hour shifts are broken down to 7.5 and 11.5 hours thus making the 30 min break not part of the working day pattern and them 30 min times belong to us the workers.
    The service in fact do not give you a break within the working day which is against the working directive, if they are not going to give us a break we should either start work 30 min later or finish 30 min earlier so that we can claim our 30 min thus making it a 7.5 or 11.5 working day and thus a 37.5 working week, and have a break within the shift which they pay for and then they can dictate where and when we can have it, if I was to work a 12 hour shift 11.5 belongs to them 30 min belongs to me, I should start at 07.30 and finish at 19.00 and then entitled to a working break of 20 min after 6 hours work- working time directive and European law.
    if I am doing a 8 hour shift I should start at 07.30 and finish at 15.00 thus also working to European law of 37.5 working week and having my 30 min which belongs to me and not them.

    The way things are going within opens up cans of worms.


    • Ryan says:

      Wrong, wrong, wrong on so many levels Ian.

      You’re given your break as part of the working day and, as it’s undisturbable, it’s unpaid. I think you’ll find it’s much the same in any profession.


  7. karen says:

    What about our drving insurance once we have been signed off for our break? Are we not insured to drive a trust vehicle in our break? Are we going to have to abandon a vehicle or just stop once they’ve put us on our break?


  8. Sandra says:

    We have Unison funded solicitors. We desperately need to look at the legal aspects of the proposed changes in our meal breaks. Ian (19 March 2016), has raised the very valid point of our ’30’ min break being unpaid. The legal definition of what constitutes our ‘break’ needs to be investigated (especially in relation to European Law). Are there legal ramifications here? If we are booked on break whilst physically driving a Trust vehicle, are we not still ‘working’? If this is the case then we should be claiming that time back as we are effectively being forced to work without pay?

    The legal aspects of IPC also need close scrutiny with respect to being forced to eat in a working environment and being unable to wash our hands etc. Do you see hospital staff eating in A&E next to their patients? Do you see doctors/nurses eating their food in resus? …….

    We pay Thompsons out of our Unison subscriptions. Let’s get them on the case now and provide the evidence rather quickly! If the Trust then goes against them they can be sued for knowingly breaking the law….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s