Nurses fear shift pattern changes will double their extra hours every month

RCN says trust’s ‘flawed proposal’ will mean staff work more shifts with fewer paid breaks

RCN says trust’s ‘flawed proposal’ will mean staff work more shifts with fewer paid breaks

Leighton Hospital, where nurses’ shift patterns will be changed from October
Shift patterns for full-time staff in adult inpatient areas at Leighton Hospital are set to
change from October. Picture: Alamy

Changes to shift patterns for nurses at a hospital in Cheshire could compromise the health and well-being of staff, the RCN warns.

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has revised its full-time shift patterns for adult inpatient areas at Leighton Hospital, and the changes double the amount of extra 12-hour shifts staff are expected to work.

Three hours a week to make up

At present, full-time substantive and bank nursing staff work 36 paid hours a week and make up their contracted 37.5 hours a week by working an extra 12-hour shift every eight weeks.

The working week consists of three 12.5-hour shifts, with each shift including one unpaid 30-minute break and two paid 15-minute breaks.

However, under the trust’s changes, from October the two 15-minute breaks per shift will be unpaid. This means nurses will have three unpaid hours per week to make up, rather than the current 1.5 – which equates to an additional 12-hour shift every four weeks, rather than every eight.

More shifts with fewer paid breaks

RCN North West regional director Estephanie Dunn said the college is in talks with the trust about its ‘fundamentally flawed proposal’.

Estephanie Dunn, RCN North West regional director
Estephanie Dunn: ‘Our priority is the
health and well-being of the staff.’

‘The RCN is concerned about these proposals, which appear to mean that our members will have to work more shifts with fewer paid breaks. This is a complex situation and we are currently establishing exactly how these changes will affect our members.

‘Our priority is safeguarding the health and well-being of our workforce and we will continue to work with the trust to ensure that a satisfactory conclusion is reached for all parties.’

Staff working through paid breaks

The RCN has also highlighted that due to staff shortages at the hospital nurses often work through their paid 15-minute breaks.

The trust’s director of nursing and quality Julie Tunney said it was committed to ensuring fairness for staff and the plans would be in line with national NHS Terms and Conditions of Service.

‘The trust developed a plan to implement a consistent shift framework to provide maximum opportunity for staff to have a protected break away from their clinical area, while ensuring patient safety is maintained,’ she said.

‘More availability of care hours’

‘This will mean the trust will have more availability of care hours, which will lead to an improvement in patients’ quality of care due to a greater capacity of staff on the wards.’

Director of workforce and organisational development Heather Barnett said the trust recognised the importance of breaks for staff safety and well-being.

‘It is our intention that all staff will have the opportunity to take their break. However, if staff are unable to take time away from their workplace due to clinical need, staff will accrue time owing, as per current practice,’ she said.

The trust designed the new shift patterns following the implementation of an electronic rostering system, which it said highlighted disparity between break arrangements across wards.

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