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AIBU to think this is dangerous and too much to ask of staff?

(23 Posts)
bettydraperswardrobeelf Mon 13-Jun-11 10:18:15

Sorry this is so long but I need to rant! I work as a theatre nurse in a busy day case surgery unit. All staff in my dept have recently received a letter detailing planned changes to how "on call" shifts will work. To give a bit of background, the current system is that all theatre staff do on call shifts in addition to their normal 37.5 Hr week where they stay at home but are available to come into work to assist in operations in general theatres if the night staff are unable to cope with the volume of emergency operations. They may or may not get called out but must stay within a 30 minute journey of the hospital and must be fit to work (ie cannot drink etc). A typical on call shift runs from 9pm till 8am and on a bad night it is entirely possible to be in for the majority of that time.

As it stands at the moment, if you are called in and you are rota'd on for a shift the next day you can delay the start of your shift in order to take sleep time. The number of hours that the start of the shift is delayed by depends on what time you were in till over night. E.g. If you were called in at 9 and stayed till 2am you wouldn't be expected to come into work until the afternoon. If you were in all night you wouldn't have to come in at all. This system has worked pretty well for some years.

However with the new system staff are not automatically entitled to sleep time. Any delay in the start of the shift has to be agreed with management in advance and it is allowed at the manager's discretion. Any sleep time which is taken must be paid back out of annual leave or the hours paid back at a later date. This means that a member of staff could work an 8-6 shift, go home, be called in at 9pm and work all night till 8am and then be expected to do their normal shift from 8-6 and if they want to stay home and their manager agrees which they don't have to do they will have to repay the time or take holiday! It is worth mentioning that there is currently no on call room in the hospital so anyone who does find half an hour to have a kip during the night will either have to go home or curl up on the chairs in the coffee room!

This has come about due to the fact that the trust can no longer afford for staff to take paid time off to sleep. Our unit is stretched to the absolute limit with several operating lists running with fewer than the recommended staffing levels.

The work we do is often complicated and we regularly literally have people's lives in our hands. The new system is not up for negotiation. It will be implemented from September. AIBU to think this is an outrageous way to treat nursing staff and that it is incredibly dangerous to be doing this sort of work on that little sleep. Also AIBU to think that if the general public were aware if this sort of practice they would be horrified and certainly
not want themselves or their relatives to be operated in at my hospital?!

notsoqueenofclean Mon 13-Jun-11 10:19:52


RollOnAugust Mon 13-Jun-11 10:22:53

yanbu. Go to your union

bluebobbin Mon 13-Jun-11 10:23:11



Glitterknickaz Mon 13-Jun-11 10:24:43

That's disgusting. It'll only impact on patient care too.

GeekCool Mon 13-Jun-11 10:25:07

Is there any way round it? Do you get paid for the extra on call hours?
I thought legally there was supposed to be 11 hours between work?
I'm with you on this, it sounds like money is taking precedence over safety.

biddysmama Mon 13-Jun-11 10:25:10

drs that are falling asleep/muddled brains from lack of sleep? sounds pretty dangerous!

confuseddotcodotuk Mon 13-Jun-11 10:25:19

YANBU! That's just dangerous, and incredibly unfair on the staff who (imo) are some of the saints in this country and are now getting screwed over because of it!

exexpat Mon 13-Jun-11 10:25:52

YANBU. I wouldn't want my life to be in the hands of someone who hadn't slept for 48 hours. They make lorry and bus drivers take compulsory rest breaks - surely medical staff should be the same?

And what will happen when - inevitably - there is a serious/fatal medical error by someone who has effectively worked three shifts in a row with no rest. Wouldn't the hospital or trust be liable to be sued because of their working conditions? Or will it just be the poor sleep-deprived nurse?

confuseddotcodotuk Mon 13-Jun-11 10:25:57

Geekcool: I believe it's 8 hours between shifts legally, but they have ways around that.

altinkum Mon 13-Jun-11 10:26:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

3littlefrogs Mon 13-Jun-11 10:27:55

Junior doctors did this sort of on call for years. They fought long and hard to get reduced working hours, now enshrined in European Law. So, the question is, is your Trust in breach of the european working time directive?

This is the question your union will address.

BooyHoo Mon 13-Jun-11 10:28:18

i am disgusted at this! how dare they put both staff and the public's lives at risk. how can they expect a theatre to run smoothly when people have been on their feet for over 30 hours?

ChickensHaveNoEyebrows Mon 13-Jun-11 10:28:35

That sounds bonkers. I wouldn't want someone who was seriously sleep deprived operating on me.

mollymole Mon 13-Jun-11 10:30:47

YANBU - this is dangerous - can your union do anything - or what about the European Working Time Directive

Groovee Mon 13-Jun-11 10:31:47

Is there not legislation as to how many hours staff have to have between shifts?

sleeplessinderbyshire Mon 13-Jun-11 10:36:28

oops dorry didn't meant to shout. Doctors used to do this and then the EWTD came in and now they are limited to 48hr a week and the compenstory rest stuff is very strict I suspect this must apply to you too

LaWeasel Mon 13-Jun-11 10:37:36

I think it sounds very dangerous, definately speak to the unions and start fighting.

MackerelOfFact Mon 13-Jun-11 10:39:09

I believe there's an EU Directive suggesting that employees should have 11 hours between shifts, but it's not law. I've been looking into this as DP often finishes at 9pm (gets home 10pm) and starts work again at 6am (leaving home at 5am).

What you describe is absolutely disgraceful and doesn't benefit anyone. Is this an NHS-wide thing, or just your own workplace?

MoreBeta Mon 13-Jun-11 10:43:04

YANBU but I am not at all sure if they are breaching the Working Time Directive.

Your union need to look into this. Look at the DirectGov website on rest breaks.

Daily rest - a break between working days

If you are an adult worker you have the right to a break of at least 11 hours between working days. This means as an adult worker, if you finish work at 8.00 pm on Monday you should not start work until 7.00 am on Tuesday.

The rights to breaks apply differently to you if the job needs round-the-clock staffing (such as hospital work).

In these cases, instead of getting normal breaks, you are entitled to 'compensatory rest'. This is rest taken later, ideally during the same or following working day. The principle is that everyone gets a minimum 90 hours rest a week on average. This is the total of your entitlement to daily and weekly rest periods, although some rest may come slightly later than normal.

bettydraperswardrobeelf Mon 13-Jun-11 10:44:28

There is legislation, but our trust have always managed to get round it by averaging the hours over the month - so as long as you get enough rest time over the month then it's ok! I am certainly going to be discussing it with my union and to be honest I can't see that it will happen in the end. The unions will just kick up such a stink. I just think it shows a total lack if respect for what we do.

Yes we do get extra money for doing the on call shifts. If you don't get called in you get just over a tenner, which to be honest I think is fair as you have to be available and ready to work, you oven don't sleep that well cos you're waiting for the phone to ring etc. If you do get called in you earn time and a half which for me (qualified nurse with 5 years experience) is about £18 an hour before tax. So yes the money is ok.

Also there are ways round it. Our code of conduct states that we must refuse to work if we do not feel capable. However I don't feel it should come down to this. I don't think I should have to refuse to work, causing tensions in an already fraught work environment. I should be given reasonable working hours in the 1st place!

ThisIsANiceCage Mon 13-Jun-11 10:52:21

I hope the union can sort it. But if not, leak it to local paper/TV. It's in the public interest in the proper sense of the phrase.

MoreBeta Mon 13-Jun-11 10:57:24

betty - I think that averaging over the month is probably just about within the Working Time Directive.

However, I wonder whether the Health and Safety issue is not a better way to tackle this. I guess they also get round that by having a 'code of conduct states that we must refuse to work if we do not feel capable.'. In other words, dumping the onus (and the legal responsibility) on you to decide whether you are fit to work.

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