Safe staffing across the NHS

Back to all Motions

2016 Health Care Service Group Conference
11 December 2015

Conference congratulates UNISON on its safe staffing campaign, which has done much to keep this important issue in the news in recent years. Given the findings of the Francis inquiry and media coverage of the issue, Conference believes it is entirely appropriate that the campaign has so far focused largely on staffing levels in the nursing workforce.

Conference notes, however, that concerns around inadequate staffing levels are not confined to nursing. Conference recognises that an assessment of safe staffing levels should involve the whole health care team including the wider nursing family such as HCAs, allied health professionals and non-clinical staff.

Conference believes that all staff no matter what their job, play a valuable role in delivering quality patient care, and that the NHS simply couldn’t function without sufficient numbers of HCAs who deliver the majority of hands on care, Occupational Therapists who assess patients before they are discharged, and receptionists who are vital to booking patients appointments and dealing with distressed relatives.

Conference believes that a multi-disciplinary approach offers a far better solution to safe staffing and is something that clinical staff want to see as well.

Conference notes that the various governments of the UK, and particularly at Westminster, have tended to focus heavily on attempts to protect doctors and nurses from the worst of the job cuts affecting healthcare staff. Consequently Conference is alarmed at the worrying level of job losses that have affected staff working in other clinical roles and support services.

Conference welcomes the fact that campaigning by UNISON and others led in October 2015 to nurses being added to the government’s shortage occupation list, at least temporarily. However, Conference notes that there is still an overall cap on the amount of staff who will be allowed to come to work in the NHS from outside the European Economic Area, meaning that shortages in other healthcare roles will continue to be a major problem.

Furthermore, Conference notes that while government plans to clamp down on agency spending may be understandable in terms of cutting back on the excessive costs charged by many agencies, this will do nothing at all to help the NHS achieve decent levels of staffing across different roles in the health service.

Conference believes that the NHS, in all parts of the UK, works best for patients and their families when all members of the healthcare team are able to work together and when there are enough staff at all pay grades to allow doctors and nurses to go about their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Conference applauds the union for reinvigorating its One Team campaign and taking up important issues on jobs, pay and privatisation for support service staff in Parliament.

Conference therefore calls upon the Health SGE to:

1. broaden its campaigning on safe staffing to cover all NHS staff by working with the Nursing & Midwifery Committee to roll out the ‘Be Safe’ training;

2. raise the profile of the One Team campaign to ensure that support staff are not forgotten about when the union is defending the jobs, pay and terms and conditions of healthcare workers; and

3. work with UNISON Labour Link and other parts of the union to ensure that all these issues get the coverage they deserve at the Westminster Parliament and across all nations of the UK.