NHS Grampian staff 'at breaking point' says union

Staff at NHS Grampian have ‘reached breaking point’ according to UNISON.

By Morag Kuc
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 10:03 am
According to UNISON its members in NHS Grampian staff have reached breaking point.
According to UNISON its members in NHS Grampian staff have reached breaking point.

The union is calling for immediate action by NHS Grampian to support staff following a major survey of UNISON members which revealed chronic staffing shortages, stressed out staff working way beyond hours with insufficient breaks and a feeling of being unsupported.

Shockingly, most staff said their areas were unsafe.

UNISON Grampian Health branch representative, Martin McKay, said: “Staff in our local NHS have gone beyond the call of duty over the last two years. But they are now at breaking point.

"Members are telling us they are exhausted, with vacancies taking months to fill, covering for ill colleagues, and not feeling supported.

"The public will be shocked that most now believe their areas are unsafe, and we can’t paper over the cracks anymore. As one member put it “The only way I see a better working life is to leave and find another job.”

UNISON Regional Organiser Simon Watson said: “Nobody foresaw the pandemic, and the public is rightly proud of NHS staff who have put their lives on the line to protect us.

"But health workers are not superhuman, and the very least they should expect is real support in the workplace.

"That is not happening enough. The long-term failure to address short staffing is now having critical consequences, but we are not seeing the response that is needed. Staff are asking “Where is the leadership?”

A survey of UNISON members employed by NHS Grampian found that over two-thirds (69%) work extra hours every week, and most (57%) were actively asked to work more.

Three-quarters said their area was unsafe due to low staffing levels, and nearly a quarter said this was the case every day. Almost every respondent said their area was short staffed (94%), and most (59%) said this was the case every day.

A large majority (81%) felt their wellbeing was worse than before the pandemic, while (89%) said they were stressed.

Tom Power, Director of People & Culture, NHS Grampian said: "We know staff right across health and social care are understandably feeling the effects of two years of sustained pressure due to the pandemic, coupled with the traditional demands of winter. Whether they are directly providing care or involved in supporting those that do, they have continually risen to the ask of being flexible during infection waves that would have overwhelmed us if not for their dedication and hard work, and we are hugely grateful for this.

"During this period, we have actively put in place staff health and wellbeing support through our 'We Care' programme, which complements our existing provision for supporting the mental and physical health of staff. We have also held our own staff surveys to help us understand where pressures were greatest and how colleagues are experiencing their working lives.

"We have put significant resource in to recruiting additional staff, both from the UK and overseas, and are starting to see an increased number of international recruits come on board.

"I wholeheartedly agree staff have a right to support in their workplace, and we are actively adding to existing structures to meet that need. We also have established mechanisms for staff to raise concerns about safety, or any other issues that matter to them, and these are regularly reviewed and responded to, helping us to maintain standards of patient care and staff experience.

"We have already established a staff group to explore new solutions and ways of working to help respond to the factors that create the challenges staff are experiencing, but do not underestimate the scale of the challenge."

*We asked UNISON how many staff at NHS Grampian were part of the union, but as yet we are still awaiting a response.