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2015 Health Care Service Group Conference
1 January 2015

Conference notes with concern that despite the government dismissing the Pay Review Body (PRB) from making any determination on NHS Staff pay in England, for 2015, it has instructed the PRB to consider the barriers and enablers ‘within the Agenda for Change pay system, for delivering health care services every day of the week in a financially sustainable way, i.e. without increasing the existing spend.’

From this it clear that the Dept of Health is determined to make even more of us work weekends and nights, but “without increasing existing spend”. This can only be achieved by cutting unsocial hours payments. At the same time conference notes the worrying trend of trusts introducing shift patterns which force staff to mix their shift patterns including working both day and night shift within the same working week.

A recent report highlighted the significant impact of shift working on workers health and wellbeing. Workers required to work shifts, lates, and earlies and nights faces disruption to their normal diet and sleep pattern which has significant adverse effect on their health:

a) evidence shows that tiredness causes 600 road deaths annually in the UK. After young drivers, shift workers and night workers are the most likely to be in a road traffic accident (RTA);

b) Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Bhopal, Challenger Space shuttle and Exxon all cite shift work as a contributory factor in the disaster;

c) shift workers have much higher incidence of gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, abdominal pain, constipation, chronic gastritis and peptic ulcers, cardiovascular problems such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, increased susceptibility to minor illnesses such as colds, flu and gastroenteritis, cancers, reproductive problems, significant mental health problems;

d) shift work may also exacerbate existing health problems such as diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and psychiatric illness;

e) it impacts on family and social life.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:

1. mount a vigorous campaign, up to and including lawful industrial action (in line with UNISON’s rules on industrial action), to defend Agenda for Change unsocial hours payments, should there be any attempt to cut the existing provisions;

2. share as widely as possible the evidence of the impact on health of working night shifts and multiple shift patterns.

Conference agrees that if any attempts are made to cut, any unsociable hours payments, UNISON Health Service Group Executive will immediately start the process for an industrial action ballot to oppose this.