North Wales health bosses slammed for “unacceptable” decision to go ahead with controversial nurse rota changes
HEALTH bosses in North Wales have been slammed after deciding to go ahead with controversial changes to nurses’ rotas despite widespread opposition.
Proposals by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) to make staff take an additional half-hour break each shift without pay were met with anger when they were announced in August.
Two separate petitions each containing more than 3,000 signatures were recently handed to officials against the plans as politicians warned it would lead to the loss of goodwill among thousands of health workers.
However, the health board has now announced it will plough ahead with the changes from the start of next year in a bid to save more than £500,000.
The move has been strongly condemned by members of the Unite union, who previously staged a protest outside a meeting of senior figures from BCUHB.
Unite Wales regional secretary Peter Hughes said: “Unite is deeply disappointed to learn that BCUHB still intend to implement their draconian and wholly unacceptable changes to our members nursing rosters.
“This flies in the face of the overwhelming opposition of both their own employees and the wider public.
“Their actions show that the health board have 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.”
Plaid Cymru has demanded for the Welsh health minister to step in and reverse the plans.
North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd, who handed in a 3,500-name petition to BCUHB earlier this month, called on Labour’s Vaughan Gething to overturn the decision.
Mr Gruffydd said: “The decision will save an estimated £25,000 a month – just two per cent of the £1.1million it spends on agency nursing each month.
“For this tiny amount of financial saving, it seems the board is willing to destroy the goodwill of nursing staff that keep our NHS working.
“Health minister Vaughan Gething has direct control over Betsi.
“It’s been under the Labour government’s direct control for more than four years after being put in special measures – he has the power to overturn this.”
A consultation was held over the last few months to gauge the views of staff members on the proposals.
Concerns raised by workers included that it could lead to an increase in travel and childcare costs for them.
In response, the board said flexible working arrangements would be put in place to suit their needs.
It added the plans to standardise shift patterns, breaks and handover periods were designed to benefit staff.
In a statement, a spokesman 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.
“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.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter
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