From the TUC

Why NHS staff need to take a break

13 Oct 2014, By Guest

NHS staff should ‘take a break’. This isn’t a snappy slogan to encourage NHS workers to have a well-earned rest. This is part of a week of industrial action that demonstrates to the government how much NHS staff go above and beyond what’s expected of them every day and every week.

This week, we’re asking NHS staff to take the meal times and breaks that they are entitled to, yet which so few are able to take because of staffing shortages and increased workloads.

These are the same staff that the government has slapped in the face with its derisory pay offer – not even a 1% increase to all staff.

UNISON’s survey of NHS workers shows that every day thousands of NHS staff do not have enough time to take their breaks. This is not only detrimental to the health of staff but also puts patient safety at risk.

Over 45% of NHS staff surveyed said they hardly ever had time for breaks during their shift, while 50% said they were worried about patient safety due to staffing issues at work.

And staff aren’t rewarded for this additional work or increased workloads – 65% of staff surveyed disagreed with the statement: ‘When I work over my shift I am paid for my work’, yet staff work additional hours because they care for their patients and cannot walk away.

The government is taking advantage of the goodwill and dedication of NHS staff who last year contributed around £1.5 billion in unpaid overtime to Government finances. Staff who are committed to caring for patients so they work extra hours for no money and work through their breaks because there are simply not enough staff to care for the number of patients in their workplace.

Over 50% of staff in our survey said they cannot afford to go on holiday and almost 70% said they did not feel valued by their employer.

The government can change this. They can show NHS staff that they are valued. They can show NHS staff that they are appreciated. And they can show NHS staff that they deserve fair pay. A 1% increase is the first step towards this.