NHS workers “can no longer cope” with staffing pressures, says union

NHS Borders workers “can no longer cope” with the pressures of looking after patients, citing amongst other things “dangerous staffing levels for both patients and staff”.

By Kevin Janiak
Friday, 13th May 2022, 10:28 am
Updated Friday, 13th May 2022, 10:29 am
Staff at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose are struggling to cope with current staffing levels, says the union Unison. Photo: Bill McBurnie.
Staff at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose are struggling to cope with current staffing levels, says the union Unison. Photo: Bill McBurnie.

The issues facing the front line workers have been building for some time, and their union Unison has written to local MSP Rachael Hamilton to voice its members’ concerns.

The letter from Unison to Mrs Hamilton said: “The health and care system is under pressure to ensure services are delivered in a safe and timely manner, and the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified existing pressures on staffing and resources in all health and care settings.

The NHS has been tested to its limits, and so have many of our members.

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"Staff in NHS Borders are reporting serious concerns to their union all underpinned by safe staffing concerns, issues include:

• Dangerous staffing levels for both patients and staff.• Staff not receiving proper rest breaks.• Staff not being given opportunities to report serious incidents on Datix, the NHS electronic incident reporting system.• Serious breaches of health and safety regulations.”

It went on: “The NHS can only recover if workers are thriving in their jobs, as things stand, our members are telling us that they can no longer cope.”

Mrs Hamilton puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Scottish Government, and has written to the health secretary.

She said: “The staff at the BGH, and across NHS Borders, have done a fantastic job since the pandemic started, yet they have been failed by the SNP Government.

“They have been stretched and put under significant pressure, due to a lack of resources from the Health Secretary Humza Yousaf.

“The letter from Unison confirms what I have been hearing all along, and the SNP Government must take these concerns seriously, it cannot continue like this.

“I stand with the hardworking nurses and doctors, and following my letter to the Health Secretary, I urge the SNP to stop dithering, and properly fund our local NHS Borders”

Ralph Roberts, chief executive of NHS Borders, admitted that services will need to be redesigned to meet the needs of patients, but assured safety of patients and staff are the board’s “number one priority”.

He told the Southern yesterday: “NHS Borders has a strong working relationship with trades union colleagues and recognises the vital role that their members play in our organisation.

“We have a duty of care to our staff, patients, students and volunteers. It is very important that all staff feel able to voice their concerns and the board encourages that.

"We fully acknowledge the challenges staff continue to face as a result of service pressures, the level of staffing gaps because of vacancies, leave and sickness absence; and the continued impact of Covid-19. We are committed to working to meet the requirements of the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act.

“At our most recent board meeting on April 7, board members were briefed on service pressures, related issues and the impact these are having on patient and staff safety and well-being.

"In a communication to staff following the meeting, the chair and I assured our colleagues that the board are determined to do everything we can to address these challenges, and accept accountability for the impact on our patients.

“Senior management colleagues met with trades unions partners yesterday morning to reassure them that management attention is keenly focused on making services as safe as they can be.

“Whilst we continue to take steps to support improvement, including a series of actions to improve patient flow and work on a local workforce strategy and plan, we acknowledge there are no short term fixes and that the health and social care system is experiencing significant pressure across the whole of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

"To address this pressure we know that we will have to work together to redesign services in order to meet the needs of our population in the long term.

“We would like to take this opportunity to reassure people that patient and staff safety remains our number one priority and thank our staff, once again, for their continued commitment and professionalism during such difficult times.”