Wales

Betsi Cadwaladr nurses' rota changes risks 'loss of goodwill'

The Senedd
Image caption The proposals for nurses in north Wales will be discussed at the assembly on Wednesday

Proposed changes to nurses' rotas could result in a "loss of goodwill", an AM has warned.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board's plans to not pay staff for their 30-minute breaks would mean an extra unpaid shift each month, Plaid Cymru's Llyr Gruffydd has said.

The proposals were discussed in the assembly on Wednesday, as the health board's consultation ends.

The health board said it was to ensure staff could take their breaks.

It added plans to standardise shift patterns, breaks and handover periods were designed to benefit staff.

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Image caption Ysbyty Gwynedd is one of the hospitals run by the health board

Mr Gruffydd, before the debate, warned the plan could backfire: "The loss of goodwill among thousands of nurses who are already working under immense pressures will probably make matters worse.

"These proposals... will mean an extra half-hour unpaid per shift.

"That's unacceptable when nurses are already working long hours under pressure, not least because one in 10 nursing posts are vacant within the health board."

Comments on a petition launched by Plaid Cymru show some are unhappy with the plans.

"Staff on the ward regularly miss breaks due to staff shortage and acuity," one wrote.

"Myself and other members of staff regularly stay over our shift hours and never claim the time back.

"[I] think this will put the nail in the coffin for an already struggling health board."

The union Unite, which protested against the changes outside a health board meeting earlier this month, said it believed they would have a detrimental effect on the work-life balance of its members.

Regional officer Jo Goodchild said: "Nursing staff are working in this organisation because they care and always put patients first, often to the detriment of their own wellbeing."

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Image caption Nurses always put patients first to the detriment of their own wellbeing, a union says

Trevor Hubbard, the health board's executive director of nursing, said: "Currently, there are too many instances where staff work through their breaks or are unable to take the protected time on a shift they are entitled to.

"Key to our proposal to standardise shift patterns is ensuring that staff receive adequate breaks, especially when they are working longer shift patterns."

"The proposals also provide an opportunity for us to reduce the reliance upon agency staff in the process, which has a patient care and staff safety benefit as well as a financial benefit," he added.

He said the plans would make the board compliant with the Working Time Regulations and the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act.

Health minister Vaughan Gething told AMs said staff rotas were an "operational matter and the responsibility of individual organisations".

Health bodies should "should ensure that all of their rotas take into consideration compliance with the Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Act 2016; are designed to meet the needs of staff for service delivery; and place patient need at the centre of the management of the workforce", he said.

"I expect all NHS employers to work closely with trade unions on the staff side on proposed changes to consider and respond appropriately to all comments and concerns," Mr Gething added.

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