Talks are going to be held in the New Year to resolve the crisis in theatre staffing at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 21 December).
Unite regional officer Kathy Walters said: “Because of the draconian trade union legislation introduced by the Tories, we were not able to reach the strict ballot thresholds for industrial action that are now required, despite the majority who voted, more than 80 per cent, wanting to take such action in the New Year.
“We believe that democracy in the workplace is being throttled because these laws, which are some of the harshest in western Europe.
“However, the management of the Medway NHS Foundation Trust does recognise the Kent hospital faces a continuing ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the operating theatres.
“As a result, Unite and the trust management will meet in the New Year, under the auspices of Acas, the conciliation service, in a bid to resolve this dispute.
“Unite will be entering into these talks in a constructive fashion to seek a satisfactory resolution for the benefit of the patients that use the hospital and those dedicated staff that put in long hours to keep the NHS functioning 24/7.
“Unite won’t be commenting further until next month’s talks have concluded.”
Theatre staff have been warning the bosses at the trust for more than a year about the threat to patient safety because of the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the operating theatres.
The dispute centres on the new rosters introduced on 13 November which, in one case, meant shift members working 12 hours without being relieved for their 30 minute unpaid break, with just a 10 minute break for a glass of water between patients.
The new rosters replaced the standard 37.5 hour week with a system that could mean staff working well beyond 37.5 hours one week and well below that figure the next, adding up to 150 hours over four weeks.
The hospital covers a population of more than 400,000 across Medway and Swale.
Notes to editors:
The trust’s website says: “We provide clinical services to almost half a million patients a year, including 110,000 Emergency Department attendances, 62,000 inpatient admissions, over 325,000 outpatient attendances and more than 5,100 babies were born at the hospital last year.”
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org