Unions criticise Welsh health board’s plan to change rotas

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board says changes will standardise shift patterns, but opponents have expressed concerns over unpaid breaks

Move to standardise shift patterns at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board prompts concerns over unpaid breaks and contracted hours

 John Behets
Picture: John Behets

Health unions in Wales have expressed disappointment at ‘wholly unacceptable’ plans to change nursing staff rotas at a local health board.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), which is behind the changes, said the changes are designed to standardise shift patterns, break times and handover periods.

From January, all nurses will get a one-hour unpaid break if they are working a 12.5-hour shift and a 30-minute unpaid break if they are working a six or eight hour shift.

But under the plans, staff may have to work ‘occasional shifts’ to meet contracted hours as a result of unpaid breaks.

Plan to standardise shift patterns

BCUHB claims there are currently 100 different shift patterns in operation across the board, with variations from no unpaid break to a one-and-a-quarter-hour unpaid break.

The board estimates reliance on agency nursing as a result of the changes will deliver £527,000 worth of savings.

But RCN Wales has warned that BCUHB already has 307 whole-time-equivalent nursing vacancies and that nursing morale is at ‘an all-time low’.

Concerns about workload and retention

The board, which is in special measures, also employs 1,058 nurses aged over 55 and RCN Wales said the proposed changes did nothing to encourage retention.

In a statement, BCUHB executive director of workforce and organisational development Sue Green argued the changes would increase the rest break times for staff working 12-hour shifts.

However, RCN Wales director Helen Whyley said that, due to workloads, nurses working at BCUHB are struggling to take any breaks at all, let alone an hour-long break.

Unite has also expressed opposition to the proposals. The union’s Welsh regional secretary Peter Hughes described the board’s plans as ‘outrageous’.

Union representatives will attend an extraordinary local partnership forum meeting held by BCUHB this week, at which the concerns will be discussed.

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