Health bosses have moved to cap the working hours of temporary staff at Noble’s hospital.
The cap aims to ensure that bank staff do not work excessive hours and so compromise patient safety.
But one healthcare assistant, who did not want to be named, has contacted the Examiner claiming the cut in hours and shifts was hitting patient care and staff morale.
She told us: ‘They are seriously cutting back. Now they have capped the hours and been cancelling shifts. Some of us used to work 45 to 50 hours a week but hours have been cut to 35 and you’re not allowed to do any more.
‘Morale is low. People are tired and stressed. I used to do five night shifts and four long days now I barely do three days. It’s leading to real problems.
‘Patients’ relatives have been complaining. Staff go home deflated. You wish you could do more for patients. I’ve gone home crying. I love my job but when you’re under pressure you can’t do your job to the best of your abilities.’
A letter, leaked to the Examiner, states that in order to prevent block booking of shifts, a cap has been placed on the working hours of bank staff to a maximum of 150 hours within a payroll period.
In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The working practices of temporary staffing (known as bank staff) at Noble’s Hospital have been reviewed to provide assurance that staff do not work an excessive number of hours. This is to promote staff health and well-being and patient safety, by ensuring that staff are not overtired.
‘Whilst the department faces significant financial challenges, this does not affect the provision of front line nursing staff, ensuring there is an appropriate number of staff required per shift, to care for patients safely. This includes the use of temporary bank staff.
‘In addition, the financial challenges do not impact on the provision of equipment or clinical supplies.
‘Staff are able to request any additional resources at any time.’
He added: ‘The safety of patients is paramount. There are established governance systems and processes in place to monitor and report any patient-related incident. There is a process and policy to enable staff to escalate any concerns they may have.’
Eric Holmes, regional office for Unite, said there had been an over-reliance upon zero hour contracts especially within the health sector, and employees had become reliant upon the additional hours they can offer.
He said: ‘The hospital is apparently stopping or limiting its reliance upon these contracts, which in turn is causing financial concerns to those who have now built lifestyles around them. We have challenged the hospital to phase out rather than blanket stop their use, due to people needing time to adjust their finances and home lives proportionately.’
Mr Holmes said that working hours cited by the healthcare assistant showed that some carers are working way over safe and acceptable hours. ‘Trade unions cannot support that practice,’ he said.