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More time off: victory for nurses who asked for longer hours over fewer shifts

Staff had called on trust to take action to protect patient safety and prevent nurse burnout
nursing staff in ICU, where burnout has led to resignations or nurses reducing their hours

Staff at Royal Free in London raised concerns through union over nurse burnout and patient safety

A hospital trust has changed nurses’ shift patterns in response to concerns about staffing and burnout.

Staff at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust will now have shorter break allocations – enabling them to work one less shift a month. They will have one hour’s unpaid break during a 12-and-a-half-hour shift, instead of the current hour and 45 minutes.

Those extra 45 minutes means they will do the same number of hours per month but over fewer shifts – allowing for more days off.

Call for action to prevent nurses burnout

The changes follow a letter sent to

Staff at Royal Free in London raised concerns through union over nurse burnout and patient safety

nursing staff in ICU, where burnout has led to resignations or nurses reducing their hours
Picture: Alamy

A hospital trust has changed nurses’ shift patterns in response to concerns about staffing and burnout.

Staff at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust will now have shorter break allocations – enabling them to work one less shift a month. They will have one hour’s unpaid break during a 12-and-a-half-hour shift, instead of the current hour and 45 minutes.

Those extra 45 minutes means they will do the same number of hours per month but over fewer shifts – allowing for more days off.

Call for action to prevent nurses burnout

The changes follow a letter sent to the trust in March by RCN London on behalf of 236 nursing staff, calling for action to address staffing levels in the intensive care unit (ICU), and to protect nurses’ well-being.

The letter said some ICU staff had already resigned or reduced their hours, which will have had a knock-on effect on patient safety and colleagues.

The college asked for a shift pattern of 13 rather than 14 shifts per month.

A trust spokesperson confirmed: ‘Following a consultation, shift patterns will change from 25 October to incorporate feedback and reflect the preferences of those who responded.’

Picture: iStock

A safety issue for patients and nurses

RCN London senior officer Millie Simms said: ‘These changes are crucial to supporting good staff morale and retention among nursing staff. This is not just a good outcome for over 2,500 of the nursing staff but ultimately will help support patient safety and effective care.’

A survey by Nursing Standard and the University of Southampton earlier this year found some nurses preferred working long shifts, to reduce the number of shifts worked. However, others said stints exceeding 12 hours or more left them feeling exhausted.


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