Bedford Hospital undermining patient safety in on-call dispute, claims union

But trust says it’s working on a solution
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

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 union Unite employed in Bedford Hospital’s estates (maintenance) department. The trust imposed a cut to the workers’ on-call payments at the end of last year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
Junior doctors’ strike: Bedford Hospital says "choose services wisely"
Bedford HospitalBedford Hospital
Bedford Hospital

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 They have now withdrawn from the on-call arrangements, which is resulting in the hospital mounting up excessive costs.

But the trust has said it is working with Unite representatives to come to a solution – and has put in place cover arrangements to ensure the service’s safety during the negotiations.

Unite says the trust is 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.

In a statement, Unite said “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”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

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.”

The Unite statement also said workers are being denied sufficient rest periods between completing on-call hours and starting their normal shifts.

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.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“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.”

A spokesperson from Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said, “As a trust, we value and respect all staff and appreciate the vital work they do every day for patients.

"Our estates and facilities staff are integral members of our workforce and without their support, we would be unable to deliver quality hospital services. We are aware of the staff concerns raised about the proposals on revised work arrangements and changes to the on-call system for the maintenance services on both the Luton and Bedford sites.

"The trust has consulted extensively on these changes with all staff involved and are continuing to work with staff and their Unite representatives to come to an agreeable solution going forward that addresses these concerns. Whilst there is a dispute over these arrangements the trust has put in place cover arrangements to ensure the safety of this service remains.”

Related topics: