Late finishes and meal break update 

After going through a very difficult period of negotiations with the Trust to avoid industrial action, a pilot of IX and changes to the calls crews can go to in their interruptible period of meal breaks was introduced in August 2016. The changes went Trust wide in October 2016.

Since the introduction of the pilot, UNISON has met with the Trust at the 4, 8 and 12 week point, to review progress. At each of those meetings we asked for further changes to ensure more crews were incorporated into IX. At each of those meetings we were told the Executives did not have the data to make those decisions – this was very frustrating.

On 20th December, we met with the Trust for a 20 week meeting to review the late finishes and meal break pilot – we had waited a number of weeks for this meeting and we were promised the data would be available for definitive decisions to be made by the Executives.

UNISON had been asking for:

  1. The pilot to become business as normal (meal break changes and IX).
  2. The IX definition to remove the ’30 minutes’ element. UNISON believes there is evidence to show moving to a 15 minutes definition will have a minimal impact. We asked for the definition to change to remove any time element.
  3. A commitment to keeping the fixed meal break points in place, to ensure crews get their meal break at a reasonable time, regardless of the pressures and for the Trust not to suspend IX during surge black. Several times during the pilot the Trust had removed fixed meal break points and IX, which led to a large number of crews not being able to take their meal break, or having a very late break.
  4. The staff support desk in Norwich EOC to become permanent – to keep the focus genuinely on supporting staff. We had proposed that the staff on the desk could also become mediators for the Trust and that the desk should be completely about staff support. There had been several suggestions from management side over the pilot to make the desk about performance and introduce elements such as chasing crews who were out of service – which we had strongly resisted.

We arrived at the 20 week meeting to be told the Trust had engaged the services of a consultancy called SSG Health. We were then informed by the Executives that SSG wanted to look at meal breaks and late finishes as a first step of a cost improvement plan. We were not able to get any definitive decisions from the Executives and everything was now ‘subject to SSG.’ There was a decision to pilot the definition of IX 15 minutes for a further period of 12 weeks – although after over 20 weeks of waiting for definitive changes and decisions, this was massively disappointing.

During the pilot we have also had a number of Freedom of information requests about the deployment model and meal breaks refused until a Section 36 (2) exemption – which the Chief Executive has endorsed. It’s incredibly difficult to operate in partnership while the Trust is not being open.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) share UNISONs frustrations and issued the Trust with two improvement notices in early November – over a failure to record issues, such as incidental (enforced overtime), and breaches to the WTD.  The Trust has until early February to meet the HSE notices. The penalty for failing to meet the improvement notices is outlined in the notices as prosecution, financial penalties, and imprisonment.

UNISON has recently been invited to a meeting with the Trust two weeks before the notices must be met – the Trust cancelled our monthly partnership meetings in December, where these notices could have been worked on in partnership. The HSE will ask UNISONs views on the notices in February and currently we still have a lot of concerns.

We have asked for the terms of reference and scope of engagement with SSG to be shared with UNISON at the Trust’s earliest convenience. We have made the HSE aware of our further concerns and we have communicated to the Trust we are now restarting our campaigning.

Please can all UNISON members ensure we have your up to date contact details, incase we need to contact you quickly about our dispute. You can update your details by calling UNISON Direct on 0800 0857 857, or log in online and update your details directly.

Kind regards,


Fraer Stevenson

UNISON Branch Secretary

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