The relentless pressures we face have led to hundreds of our colleagues voting with their feet and leaving our Service. A few years ago it was rare to hear of anyone choosing to leave – now its common place; this is by far the biggest risk to patient care and safety.
We have campaigned for over a year for better working conditions after 1541 staff took part in our Put back the heart survey.Shorter planned shifts are not the answer, as we know without measures to address late finishes, staff would simply be in work more often – and forced to work yet more enforced overtime.
The late finishes pilot put in place in May 2015 was promised to be an evidence based pilot that would progressively increment. Despite public promises, we have not seen any beneficial incremental changes.
In December 2015, 2,995 shifts finished over an hour later than planned, and in January 2016 this rose to 3,639 shifts. It’s vital measures are put in place to protect and support staff from these pressures. It can not be right that anyone is forced to work 13 – 18 hour shifts, or in one case earlier this year, 20.5 hours.
During our indicative ballot the Trust put forwards their own “proposals,” with a defined timeline, which the trust emailed to all staff. UNISON asked if these “proposals” would be imposed and the Director of Service delivery stated he, “was not sure.”
The “proposals” led to a large number of staff signing a strongly worded open letter, and the trust asked UNISON back to the table for dispute resolution negotiations.
On 20th April the Executive Leadership Board (ELB) reacted to our negotiations, stating that:
“The agreement needs to be part of the suite of issues as discussed and highlighted within the original proposal. This will not stop the trial but will form part of on-going negotiation.
Where no progress is made on discussions around the broader range of measures proposed, then ELB would need to reflect on the continuation of the trial.”
We remain very concerned that the Executive Board is looking for performance gains at the further cost of staff welfare; this is not acceptable.
UNISON believes the trust needs to:
- Introduce intelligent X-ray to reduce enforced overtime. We have defined intelligent X-ray as: If the travel time back to base, once clear from an incident would result in a late finish of more than 30 minutes, then the crew will be able to book out of service as ‘intelligent X-ray.’ This will result in them only being available for confirmed Red 1 calls and Hot 1 backups, if they are the nearest resource.
- Remove green calls and urgent calls from the interruptible period of meal breaks.
- Introduce an additional 20 minute uninterruptible break.
We asked for a final position from the trust on the above ahead of a meeting planned for 27th April. This meeting was cancelled and the trust informed us they would respond by 9th May.
It’s always our preference to work in partnership and this has resulted in a number of beneficial changes for members – such as the pay band agreement and the removal of student fees. Our door remains open to the trust for discussions, although after months of promises and little action, we have a deadline of 9th May for the trust to agree to genuine supportive measures and a timely implementation date.
We know from the results of our indicative ballot that staff are prepared to stand together and if necessary fight for the changes we need.
We will update you as soon as we can on or before 9th May.
UNISON Branch Secretary
East of England Ambulance Branch 20106