'Left behind' nurses in Surrey and Sussex set for strike action

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Nurses in Surrey and Sussex who say they have been ‘left behind’ by employers are gearing up for two days of strike action, starting tomorrow (July 09).

More than 350 members of the Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) are set to participate in the strike action, taking their employers to task over what they say is a failure to pay staff full rates.

UNISON – one of the UK’s biggest trade unions and the organisation between Tomorrow’s action – says the strike action was backed by an ‘overwhelming’ 98 per cent of the membership in a formal ballot.

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The workers, employed at East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, Crawley Hospital and Horsham Hospital, are demanding pay that reflects their essential role in patient care. They provide vital support to nurses and other clinical staff but have not been paid for extra duties they’ve had to take on, the union says.

Image: PixabayImage: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

The staff have been employed on band 2 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale, which means they should only undertake personal care tasks such as bathing or feeding patients.

But they regularly undertake clinical tasks like inserting cannulas, carrying out electrocardiogram (ECG) tests or taking blood samples, which should be paid at the higher band 3 rate, says the union.

The trust has acknowledged that staff are taking on additional, unpaid work, but, the union says, has refused to compensate them for years spent working well above their pay grade. This is despite the fact that, in similar disputes elsewhere, NHS staff have been compensated for work dating as far back as August 2018.

Additional strike dates have been set for July 25 and 26.

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UNISON South East regional organiser Rachel Slaughter said: “These dedicated workers provide incredible care for patients, over and above their job description. They’ve done this for years because they’re proud of the work they do. But the trust has been getting it on the cheap.

“Staff have seen others in a similar position across the country recognised for their extra work and mustn’t be left behind.

“Industrial action is a last resort, but staff reckon senior managers have buried their heads in the sand and hoped the issue would just go away. That won’t happen.

“Trust bosses must come to their senses and get back around the table so future strike action can be averted.”

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​UNISON South East regional secretary Steve Torrance added: “Across the South East, low-paid healthcare staff are working together for fair pay and recognition. This dispute is the tip of the iceberg. Senior managers have to wake up to the reality that staff are underpaid and feel undervalued.

​“Dedicated professionals in the NHS must get the respect and wages they deserve.”

A spokesperson for SASH said the Trust has already made a pay offer in line with the Royal College of Nursing’s recommendations, but this has not been accepted, adding: “As a trust we value our nursing assistants and maternity support workers and the work they do every day for our patients. While we respect their right to strike, we are disappointed that our pay offer, in line with RCN recommendations, has not been accepted and that this action is taking place whilst the grievance process is ongoing. We are working closely with those members of staff and their union to find a resolution as soon as possible.”

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