The Trade Union Bill: John’s story

My name is John Brisbane and I work as a staff nurse in a child and adolescent mental health unit

My job involves many and varied tasks and responsibilities, from managing the health issues associated with an eating disorder to managing violence and self harm.

I decided to work in this area because I believed that, in working with children, I could support them in recovering from their mental health issues before they impacted on their adult lives, hopefully focusing my efforts where I could benefit people most.

The best thing about my job is being with people as they make significant changes in their lives. An example of this that always stays with me was when a young girl disclosed to us she had been abused by her father.

If she hadn’t felt able to tell us this, she would have been discharged back into his care. The father has since been imprisoned.

I have had many bad days at work, and many days I have been under extreme pressure.

The worst day I ever had at work would need an article in itself to describe, but the demands are both physical and mental, with the pace often relentless.

I have had my finger broken, which still causes me pain over a year later, and effects my guitar playing, I have been bitten, punched, kicked and almost throttled.

Twice in the past month I have had to call 999 to help manage difficult situations. I have twice been off sick for a week at a time due to stress headaches which have subsequently made my life generally miserable for a while.

The government wants to make it legal for agency workers to cover my role if I was to ever go on strike. I can’t see how this is at all possible. It takes regular staff a lot of time and effort to build the relationships with people that are required to nurse them effectively and without these relationships agency staff would be almost entirely ineffective.

Another reason I don’t think this is a good idea is because it would be dangerous. Agency workers would have little or no idea of the policies and protocols in place for the management of emergency situations, and emergencies occur.

It is the nature of the work and a difficult task even for experienced staff.

I think this will have a negative impact on people who use the service I provide.  I work with children who have emotional difficulties. For them to meet strangers can be a distressing experience, so staffing a ward with agency workers they didn’t know would be distressing for them.

I think this will make the service I provide unsafe. My ward is supposed to be a safe place for people who are at risk, for a variety of reasons. By suggesting you are providing a service that you are not and can not would automatically put people at risk – both agency workers and patients.

In general, I do not think the Trade Union Bill is a good thing because it takes from me my right to have my voice heard, among the voices of many, who speak up not just for themselves but for the people they provide care for

I believe that going on strike is a basic right people have to express themselves, but I also believe in the service I am paid for providing. I would trust in my union if they felt a strike to be necessary and that these measures would not be taken lightly.