No matter how low the trust set their own bar when it comes to laying out and following a fair and meaningful consultation process at East Sussex Health Trust, they still manage to fail to achieve it, says GMB Southern.
GMB, the union for front line health care professionals at Folkington ward at Eastbourne District General Hospital, are commencing a process of ballots which could see their members eventually take industrial action against the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.
The ballots are a result of breaches to a meaningful consultation process over changes to staff roles during the trust’s multi-site ward transformation proposal. The proposed changes would see Folkington’s role at the trust turned from an in-patient discharge ward to delivering acute medical services.
The front line medical and support staff at Folkington ward are supportive of the trusts decision to move the ward from in patient discharge ward to an acute ward. However, despite being told the number of beds won’t change and the staffing levels will stay the same or increase slightly, the trust has seen fit to include Folkington ward staff into a wider group (220 staff) at risk of enforced changes to their shift patterns, job roles and areas of work as a result of a 30-day consultation.
GMB have questioned the legitimacy of the consultation period which saw wards closed and staff dispersed throughout the trust before the consultation period was completed. One to one meetings to discuss the effect the transition will have on staff unable to make the changes, due to their current roles or work life balances, should they be moved to different areas and roles, have already been convened.
The East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has transferred or discharged patients from Folkington Ward and have now closed it. Staff have been sent out to work throughout the trust with little more than two days’ notice. This comes after the GMB union raised concerns on members’ behalf about the unfair treatment of having to re-apply to work within their own team.
GMB also have concerns over the trust forcing through mass staffing changes that means around 220 frontline staff face various changes to shift patterns, workplaces and responsibilities. At the same time GMB and its members feel the trust are being less than truthful about the number of staff at risk of redundancy. This is in order to disregard any legal requirements around an extended consultation period.
GMB members are at risk of redundancy if they find themselves unable to make the trusts enforced changes upon their work life balance GMB are concerned this could, see much needed nursing staff leave the trust.
The consultative ballot which opens June 27 and closes on July 4 will be the first step of the industrial dispute process. Should members vote for strike action in this ballot GMB will provide legal notice to the employer and a ballot for industrial action will be done by ERS (Electoral Reform Society).
Gary Palmer, GMB Regional Organiser said:
“No matter how low the trust set their own bar when it comes to laying out and following a fair and meaningful consultation process at East Sussex Health Trust (EHST), they still manage to fail to achieve it.
“Once again this an unfair, shambolic version of a consultation the trust is delivering to frontline professional staff, who have given their all to achieve trust aims and great patient care on a day to day basis. It offers nothing but stress and worries over a process they needn’t find themselves involved in. Once again, the trust has managed to disenfranchise staff needlessly.
“The trust consistently fails to get their consultations right in respect of staff and their default positions is always that lessons will be learnt going forward. This includes a case where the Chief Exec has commented and acknowledged that they ‘recognise fully that we have not got things right in all respects, but we are working to do so in good faith’. The trouble for the GMB union and its members is that the only thing the trust gets right each time is their apology for not getting things right each time.
“Folkington Ward in this instance has all the required skills needed to carry on delivering high quality patient care after the singular change from a discharge to an acute ward has been completed. Staff have been told that ward bed numbers won’t change and that staffing levels on the new ward might even potentially need to slightly increase, so why staff must then be placed into a group of over two hundred other potential dispersed healthcare staff from other wards going through ward closures and bed reductions is ridiculous.
“The trust has unnecessarily placed staff through a stressful process, when mitigation to minimise the numbers facing change is the best way forward for all, both on Folkington and 5 other wards across both the Hastings and Eastbourne hospitals sites.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world to push NHS professionals to the brink of taking action to seek fair treatment for themselves, but the trust might just have managed it this time.
“As always, the GMB on behalf of its members remain open to meaningful discussions to avoid any eventual action. In this case, that would mean the removal of scope from the current staff at Folkington. They must allow what has in the past been an award winning team, to carry on delivering high quality care. They must also be sure to give staff on other wards the information they need to make informed choices going forward, prior to the consultation finishing and changes being implemented.”
Source: GMB Southern