Royal Free Hospital nurses set for pay battle victory

Rate is less than paid at other hospitals

Friday, 30th July 2021 — By Tom Foot

Royal Free

The Royal Free 

ROYAL Free Hospital chiefs are set to bring nurses’ pay in line with other major NHS trusts following a five-year dispute with frontline workers.

The Hampstead hospital’s nurses have since 2016 been warning managers about an unfair system that sees them paid for 30 minutes less per shift than other major trusts in London.

A report discussed by the board this week said nurses had “consistently raised concerns” and there had been a “severe impact” on morale causing many staff to leave.

Details of the long-running row are revealed in the documents that show how the Free is already planning its staffing levels for a “potential third [Covid] wave that may occur later this year”.

According to the papers, one intensive care unit nurse said the “change” in pay would have “a massive impact on morale and retention of staff in the Intensive Care Unit, which in turn will improve patient safety”.

A consultation was launched last week following pressure from staff and health unions, and a letter sent to managers signed by more than 200 nurses and medical staff in March.

The letter had warned that “nurse-to-patient ratios during the pandemic were unsafe for patients and have led to severe levels of burnout amongst nursing staff” and that “the hospital did not do enough to escalate or respond to our concerns about this”.

The problem, this month’s board report said, had led to a situation on the wards where the nurse-to-patient ratio was “in excess of 1:4”. Safe staffing rules require a ratio of one nurse per patient in the ICU.

The nursing shortfall had been worsened by a ban on recruiting nurses from India because of the Delta variant and international recruitment is “significantly disrupted” because of the global pandemic, the report said.

Responding directly to questions from intensive care nurses, the Royal Free London’s chief nurse Julie Hamilton confirmed the move to increase pay in line with other trusts, adding: “The board is aware of the importance of this issue and what it means to staff that the proposal has been agreed to move to consultation.”

l More than 200 patients have been waiting longer than two years for an appointment at the Royal Free. Details of the “hotspots” on the 104-week waiting lists are revealed in July board papers for the Hampstead hospital. Departments include gynaecology, maxillofacial and paediatric general surgery.

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