As the main union for support staff across the NHS, UNISON believes it's high time that members of the public and politicians understood the role you play in delivering patient care. We think it's unfair that you don't get the recognition you deserve.
It's no secret that support staff have been on the receiving end of cost-saving drives in the NHS, including job cuts, restructuring, zero hours contract, downbanding and outsourcing, and we say enough is enough.
Watch for our new campaign coming soon!
Assistant Branch Secretary Frances Lyall used a question and answer session with Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil MSP at the recent UNISON Scottish Health Conference to challenge Alex Neil on admin cuts. Shooting straight from the hip, Frances welcomed the recognition in his address to conference that admin staff are frontline and asked if the Minister was willing to reverse the cuts to admin staff imposed on Health Boards by the Scottish Government.
In a typically ‘political’ response the Minster avoided the straight answer which didn’t go down well with delegates, but Frances says that his comments do suggest that there is room for discussion, she said, “A politician is never going to be bounced into reversing government policy on the hoof, so I wasn’t surprised that he dodged the question. However I think there is merit in us picking the overall issue up with him in the weeks ahead through the ‘channels’ that we have open to us in UNISON.” She added, “In the meantime UNISON will continue to make the case for sensible and safe staffing levels for admin staff.”
UNISON is concerned that Medical Secretaries are being placed under “intense pressure” as new models of working which include Med Secs managing two lists and working to two Consultants who can have different ways of working.
Assistant Secretary Frances Lyall said, “We have welcomed the employers commitment to take on additional admin support to clear backlogs that existed before the new working methods. There is however no doubt that our members are suffering, there are a few off with stress and others have told us they cant cope and are worried that the service will suffer.”
UNISON has raised our members concerns with the employers, we know that new technology and new ways of working will drive change, but we need to be careful that staff are not made ill and that the service is safe.
Admin cuts don't add up according to Assistant Branch Secretary Frances Lyall. Across the NHS bosses are being asked to make cuts to admin staff, UNISON has discovered that in some areass highly trained and well paid clincial staff are spending more and more time on admin duties.
Frances said, "How does it save money to expect a highly paid and experienced nurse to manage waiting lists or input pay information into a computer. Yes there is room for progress and new technology might lead to some reductions in staff in some areas, but to cut admin workers and then ask nurses or other clinical staff to do admin duties just does not add up."
A new 16-page report for UNISON Scotland argues that 'efficiency savings' which are often expected from piecemeal organisational change such as flawed 'shared services' models are rarely achieved. In fact, the vast majority of front line staff - around 90% - who have faced cuts to so-called 'back office' admin jobs believe this has been at the expense of their primary tasks.
Assistant Branch Secretary and Vice Chair of the UNISON Admin and Clerical Sector Comm, Frances Lyall welcomed the report. She said, “This report should serve as a wake up call to Health Board bosses, civil servants and politicians. Admin and Clerical staff do important work that keeps our NHS moving, you can slash these jobs, but if the work still needs doing you don’t save a penny and productivity suffers.”
The report was published in the same month that the UK National Audit Office reported Whitehall departments have spent a staggering £1.4 billion over the past seven years - but saved just £159 million by ill-advised schemes for sharing 'back office' functions such as personnel and procurement.
You can view the report here
UNISON NHS Glasgow Clyde and CVS Branch has welcomed the current political focus on the loss of nursing posts in the NHS, but has called on politicians to remember that the NHS is a much bigger team.
Assistant Branch Secretary Frances Lyall said, “We welcome the recent focus on cuts in nursing staff by Labours Jackie Baillie, in NHS Glasgow and Clyde the number of registered and un registered staff has gone down year on year and staff are continually working short staffed. That is simply not good enough.”
However she went on to remind politicians and social commentators that the NHS is about more than nursing.
She said, “I appreciate that nursing numbers are an easy headline to focus on, but our NHS is bigger than nurses. Our nursing members work alongside Porters, Domestics, Ward Clerks, Occupational Therapists and a host of other staff who are ‘at the Frontline’ making the system work. Their hands are the hands the clean the wards, transport the patient, make the food, organise the surgery list and help you back on your feet.
"These staff have been affected by cuts too and their contribution is no less valuable than any other member of our NHS team. It’s time politicians and social commentators looked up and saw the whole picture.”
Whilst UNISON welcomes the introduction of a registration system for all staff working with vulnerable groups (this will include porters, domestics, nursing assistants and anyone else who has direct patient contact) the union has criticised plans by the NHS employers to ask new staff to pay the £59.00 fee prior to appointment.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the UNISON Health Service Group Cathy Miller said, “This is terrible, at a time when staff are being asked to work longer, pay more for their pension and put up with a pay freeze they are now being asked to ‘pay for the privilege’ of getting a job.”
Cathy also backed the unions call for student nurses and OT’s to be exempt saying, “UNISON supports the principle of free Higher and Further Education for Scottish students, however their decision to make students pay for their PVG registration, flies in the face of the political rhetoric and it needs to get sorted now!”
It is planned to require all existing staff groups who have direct patient contact to be registered early in the new year and staff who do not register could be sacked.
Giving evidence at the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee today, UNISON Regional Organiser for NHS Glasgow and Clyde reminded MSP’s that admin staff provide support and services that allow nursing staff more time to spend on patient care.
Matt also took the time to point out that a recent survey of Health Visitor staff in Glasgow appeared to evidence that Health Visitors in Glasgow only spend about 17% of their time on patient care, with the rest spent on admin and form filling.
Speaking after the session Matt said, “You can’t look at the NHS in silo’s, staff; all staff play an important role in delivering patient services.”
Matt also challenged the view of some MSP’s that the NHS had benefited from protected funding, pointing out that in terms of NHSGGC there was less than 1% of new money for 2011/12.
Whether you are a nurse working in theatre or the medical secretary who ensures that the patient on the waiting list recieves their letter on time - UNISON believes that you are 'frontline' and that your work should be valued.
Branch Secretary Cathy Miller said, "Of course we value nurses and other staff who have direct patient care without them there could be no NHS. But it is wrong for polticians and civil servants to think that they can take millions out of our NHS by cutting support staff whilst having no impact on the 'frontline'. Ward Clerks, Medical Secretaries and the people who make sure that our suppliers get paid are equally important to ensuring that patient services are delivered on time and in budget. To suggest anything else is either daft or dishonest."
In response to plans to reduce non clinical staff by as much as 25% across the NHS, UNISON NHS Glasgow and Clyde has launched a 'FRONTLINE' campaign. You can be a part of it.