Sheffield mental health workers to strike as government cuts put ‘people at risk’

Some people in need not seen for nearly two years

Sheffield mental health workers to strike as government cuts put ‘people at risk’, says UNISON

Mental health nurses, social workers and occupational therapists – who belong to UNISON and work for Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield City Council – are due to take strike action over the impact of spending cuts, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

Following overwhelming support – 83% recently voted to strike – the 200 workers plan to take action early next year.

The reorganisation of mental health support services across the city two years ago is at the heart of the dispute, says UNISON.

The new structure, designed by Trust managers to reduce costs, has resulted in some specialist treatment teams being axed, leaving staff struggling to meet patient needs.

Mental health workers say some people are waiting months for assessments – something that previously took two weeks, according to the union.

The staff, who’ve been raising concerns with the Trust since February, want to see a full review. Disillusioned employees are already leaving the service, which only adds to the problem of unmanageable workloads, stress and anxiety for colleagues still in post, says UNISON.

UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside regional organiser Charlie Carruth said: “This dispute is the direct result of savage government cuts. Patients and the city’s communities are being let down by an underfunded service, while frontline staff are in danger of burning out as they try to deliver more with substantially less.

“Individuals are being put at risk because of short-sighted penny pinching that values balance sheets ahead of people, both those needing support as well as staff. Senior managers at the Trust and the City Council need to invest properly in mental health services before it’s too late.”

A mental health worker said: “There are 197 people on our books, one full-time nurse, two-part time ones and a full-time support worker. We run one specialist clinic every fortnight and two others every week.

“In addition, full-time staff must do a duty shift every week and those working part-time one every fortnight. There are some people who’ve been referred to mental health services that we’ve not been able to see since the reorganisation nearly two years ago.”

Notes to editors:
– Employees involved in the dispute include nurses, social workers, support workers, occupational therapists and administrative staff.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Charlie Carruth M: 07904 343303 E:
Sue Highton M: 0114 271 6154 E:
Garfield Myrie T: 0207 121 5546 M: 07432 741565 E: