Nurses crucial part of Labour Party plan to cut NHS waiting lists
Nurses will be able to volunteer for extra paid shifts at evenings and weekends and procedures will be possible outside 9-5 as part of £1.1 billion plan
The Labour Party will allow nurses to volunteer for extra paid evening and weekend work under new plans to cut NHS waiting lists if it wins at the next general election.
Staff will be pooled between hospitals to enable more procedures to go ahead
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer announced a £1.1 billion plan to cut waiting lists, which includes NHS staff working paid overtime and weekend shifts voluntarily and pooling staff between hospitals so more procedures can be carried out.
The plan, unveiled ahead of the party’s conference in Liverpool, would also see patients given the choice to travel to a nearby hospital to get treated on an evening or weekend.
Sir Keir told the BBC that while overtime payments would not match what nurses can earn in the private sector, he was confident staff would volunteer.
But the RCN warned a ‘change in culture’ was needed for such a policy to work, with the NHS already running on the goodwill of workers with nursing staff often working unpaid overtime to keep patients safe.
RCN chief nurse Nicola Ranger said: ‘Any Labour government would likely take office at a time of record unfilled nurse jobs, in excess of 40,000, and so the long-term answer is of course to have more staff overall. When many nurses already work additional full days to make ends meet financially, extra capacity is urgently required.’
Some 7.7 million people are currently on waiting lists for treatment in England, the highest since records began.
Unions call for long-term workforce plan beyond this welcome quick fix
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea welcomed the ‘short-term help’, but also warned the NHS needed a permanent workforce fix.
She said: ‘Health workers are already up against it and there are only so many hours in a day. But a voluntary scheme, where staff are paid fairly that avoids the use of expensive agencies, makes sense in the short term.
‘The priority must be to retain existing staff and encourage more temporary workers to go on the books and become directly employed NHS employees. There must also be a properly funded recruitment campaign to fill the thousands of NHS vacancies.’
Health leaders said some trusts were already making use of shared waiting lists and pooling staff with neighbouring trusts, but underlying issues in the NHS, such as staff shortages, pay and working conditions needed to be addressed.
NHS Providers chief executive Julian Hartley added: ‘Labour’s plan needs to be part of a broader strategy that includes workforce growth and retention together with investment in healthcare infrastructure to ensure lasting improvements for NHS patients and staff alike.’
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