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Nurses rail against enforced extra break time

A petition on change.org against enforced breaks currently has 3,400 signatures, but the trust behind the proposals says an extra 30-minute break per shift will mean more nurses on duty

A petition against changes in shift patterns for nurses and midwives at a Teesside hospital has received an average of 1,000 signatures a day since it was launched.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust wants staff working 12-hour shifts to take 60 minutes of breaks a day instead of the current 30 minutes.

It claims this will mean more staff on duty and brings all wards into line with each other as there are already some which run themselves this way.

However, nurses using the system point out they already struggle to take this break time, let alone a full hour, and say they will actually end up having to work an extra shift to balance their hours.

A petition started three days ago on the website change.org currently has 3,400 signatures and many comments expressing anger at the decision.

The petitioner Scott Rowley explains in the petition; staff currently work three 12.5 hour shifts meaning they get paid for 36 hours resulting in a shortfall of 1.5 hours each week.

As a result every eighth week they work a ‘catch up’ shift. However, under the new proposals the one-hour break would mean 34.5 paid hours – a shortfall of three hours requiring a catch up shift every fourth week.

Mr Rowley adds: ‘On paper it appears staff will be getting a fair deal – an additional 12 hours of meal break time in exchange for a 12-hour shift.

‘The problem is staff already struggle to get their 30-minute meal break given the working pressures on the wards.

‘They will be expected to undertake the same amount of work with 30 minutes less time in which to do it. ‘

One nurse who signed said: ‘Not only do I now have to go to work for an extra 12-hour shift that I won't be getting paid for, but I have to pay an extra £46 for my little boy to be in nursery while I do. 

‘Get a grip South Tees, stop dreaming up stupid ideas in your offices and get on the wards and departments and see how hard your staff are working!’

Another said: ‘After doing this job for 32 years, I have never felt so undervalued. I’m disgusted beyond belief.’

The petition has also been backed by doctors, with one saying: ‘As a doctor I can comfortably say I couldn’t do my job without the nurses over the years.

‘They are overworked and underpaid and that’s not something we as doctors will stand for. We will stand with our nurses.’

Director of nursing Gill Hunt said the trust is briefing staff about changes to some of the nursing and midwifery rotas, which will take effect from the end of January.

She said: ‘After considering the resources we have available, and the needs of our wards and patients, we have identified a shift pattern which will enable us to have more nursing staff available on the wards and will make sure staff take the breaks they are entitled to.

‘These changes will reduce variation and promote equality by standardising breaks across all wards.

‘We believe this new approach will make the best use of our existing workforce while ensuring we continue to provide the highest quality of care for our patients.

‘We are working closely with managers and unions to ensure staff are kept fully informed.’

To view the petition click here

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