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Nurses ‘have lost confidence in the States’

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NURSES have lost confidence in the States and need to see meaningful action, the Royal College of Nursing has warned.

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The RCN, the voice of nursing across the UK, said the disillusionment stemmed from a series of missed opportunities by the States of Guernsey.

At a recent branch meeting, members of the college told regional officers how a shortage of staff and an increase in workload has led to them feeling burnt out and not valued.

The Policy & Resources committee, which is responsible for States employment, said it was surprised by the RCN statement.

In 2017, the RCN welcomed a move by the States of Guernsey to undertake a strategic review of the terms and conditions attached to nursing and midwifery professionals employed by the States.

The following year an independent review was delivered to the States which made several key recommendations.

RCN senior regional officer Julie Lewers said that, after several lengthy delays, the RCN was hopeful of a solid implementation plan that would enable them to work in partnership with the States to get the best outcome for nurses.

Instead, they were presented with a rushed overview, which was seemingly only released after the RCN threatened to go public, with a longer and equally insubstantial plan released a week later.

‘The plans are vague with no solid time-frame around delivery and outcomes,’ said Ms Lewers.

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‘Understandably, our members are extremely angry around the latest developments – they see it as a slap in the face [and] the final straw in their trust and confidence that their employer is really committed to sorting out nursing pay, terms and conditions.

‘Members are fed up of vague promises from the States.

‘Our members are regularly working above and beyond their contracted hours to ensure that patients get the best possible care, which is admirable, but not sustainable.’

Policy & Resources said: ‘We’re really surprised at the comments from the Royal College of Nursing. Our view is that negotiations have been moving forward in good faith. The situation as it stands is that an offer is currently with the RCN.

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‘Our understanding from our most recent communication with the RCN is that it was their intention to ballot their members on that offer.’

The RCN is asking the States to address three key issues:

  • ‘Nurses want a meaningful pay rise that not only keeps up with, but significantly exceeds RPI (cost of living) and will finally bring them in line with colleagues doing similar work across the States as well as across the health sector, giving pay parity for everyone.
  • Pay, terms and conditions framework. There needs to be a solid framework in place to ensure fairness across the board and to future-proof the nursing profession so that nursing on Guernsey is seen as an attractive and viable workplace.
  • Patient care. There needs to be a robust system in place to ensure safe staffing that will enable safe delivery of care without relying on top-up agency nurses and stretching the goodwill of staff to breaking point.’

Health & Social Care says that it values its nurses and hopes that the dispute with the RCN can be quickly resolved.

The committee says it helped bring about the strategic review of the terms and conditions attached to nursing and midwifery professionals, through its policy letter of December 2017, which was unanimously approved by the States.

‘As such, we are eager to ensure that the Policy & Resources Committee, acting as the employer, can reach a successful resolution with the RCN regarding pay, terms and conditions as soon as possible.’

HSC says that it takes patient care and safe staffing levels very seriously: ‘There is a robust system in place to ensure safe staffing levels. These are reviewed at least twice daily by the senior nurse responsible for the individual operational area. The ratios of registered nurses to patients at the PEH are excellent and are benchmarked against the acuity of patients ensuring all patients receive safe care.’

It says ratios of staff to patients are good when compared against hospitals in the UK.

‘If an area has extra staffing requirements the senior nursing team are notified immediately so that extra staff can be made available to support an area.’

HSC says it employs agency nurses so that it can ensure high standards of nursing care. ‘All healthcare providers use agency staff to support their substantive staff. In Guernsey, agency staff stay with HSC for several months so they get to know the organisation well and are a valued part of the team to manage demand, deliver specific skills and provide flexibility across our workforce.’

The committee paid tribute to its staff: ‘We work with our nursing colleagues to ensure high standards of welfare are maintained and monitor the number of hours they work for us as part of this commitment. We value their flexibility and goodwill which contributes towards supporting excellent nursing care in the Bailiwick.’

Zoe Fitch

By Zoe Fitch
News reporter

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