Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been accused of 'undermining the safety of patients and staff' in an ongoing dispute over on-call pay.

The dispute involves members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, employed in the hospitals estates (maintenance) department. The trust imposed a cut to the workers’ on call payments at the end of last year.

On-call withdrawn

In response, the members voted for industrial action. They have now withdrawn from the on-call arrangements, which is resulting in the hospital mounting up excessive costs. It is also placing the safety and welfare of staff and patients at risk by using managers and contractors, who don’t have the knowledge, skills and experience to adequately cover during the on-call periods.

Rather than pay its workers a fair on-call payment, the trust is instead paying a contractor £5,000 a week to cover the on-call work. In addition, the trust also recently had to pay £900 to the fire brigade to resolve a problem with a trapped lift, a matter that the estates staff would normally deal with.

Trust embarrassed

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The trust should be embarrassed by its actions. By imposing a cut in on-call payments it is undermining the safety of patients and staff.

“Our members play a vital role in keeping the trust’s hospitals functioning and they fully deserve a decent on-call payment. They will continue to receive Unite’s total support.”

In addition to cutting the on-call rates estates staff receive, the new arrangements imposed on the workforce mean that they are denied sufficient rest periods between completing on-call hours and starting their normal shifts. This seriously impacts on their health and wellbeing.

Safety eroded

Unite regional officer Richard Gates said: “The dispute is eroding the safety and welfare of patients and staff at the trust’s hospitals while also costing a fortune in payments to contractors who provide inferior services compared to our members.

“This dispute is entirely of the trust’s own making. It needlessly imposed a cut in on-call payments. It now needs to admits its error and agree a fair on-call rate for Unite’s members.”


For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.