‘Pay us for the work we do’ Hertfordshire nurses say as campaign launches at Lister Hospital

Anne Wells, RCN Nurse, Peter Carter, Chief Executive, RCN and Karen Webb, Eastern Regional Director,

Anne Wells, RCN Nurse, Peter Carter, Chief Executive, RCN and Karen Webb, Eastern Regional Director, RCN - Credit: Archant

Nurses have launched a campaign to encourage hospital staff to claim compensation for the extra hours they have to work to keep the health service up and running.

Eunice Sirkett, Lecturer Practitioner for Palliative Care, RCN

Eunice Sirkett, Lecturer Practitioner for Palliative Care, RCN - Credit: Archant

National headlines about overstretched accident and emergency departments struggling to cope with a surge in patients have been echoed in North Herts, with hospital chiefs stressing that they are managing to deal with the winter wave of urgent cases but admitting at times it has been touch and go.

Nurses and other health staff they are routinely expected to go above and beyond their contracted duties to get the job done, and on Monday the Royal College of Nurses launched its ‘Enough is Now Enough’ at the Lister Hospital.

The union has started the push – which will urge affected staff to submit invoices for the extra hours they do or make arrangements to claim time off in lieu – after the government refused a one per cent increase in NHS pay rates.

Dr Peter Carter, the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary, says the campaign’s tactic was a better alternative to taking industrial action.

Myrtle Munro, Nurse RCN

Myrtle Munro, Nurse RCN - Credit: Archant

But he told the Comet: “The government regularly says how much it values NHS staff but the failure to give nurses a cost of living increase, coupled with the failure to pay them for the extra work they do, sends out a different message.”

The national campaign was rolled out at the Stevenage hospital but the RCN says it is not a reflection on the East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs the site.

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Eunice Sirkett, a lecturer practitioner for palliative care, said: “I think it is brilliant that nurses are going to get paid for the extra hours that they put in.

“I see nurses putting in quite a lot of extra time and hard work and some come in earlier than they need to.”

She said she knew a lot of staff were working at least five to six hours extra every week.

Myrtle Munro, a nurse in patient access who has worked at the Lister Hospital and QEII in Welwyn Garden City since 1999, said: “I think for a long time the NHS has relied on the goodwill of nurses.

“But in recent times we have had no increase in pay and we are being asked to work extra hours and not take our breaks, and are not being compensated for it.

“It has been getting worse and worse because we have become so reliant on bank and agency staff, and they take time off over the holidays.”

Speaking about working over the Christmas period, she said: “We were desperate. Nurses were coming in at 7.45am and not leaving until 10pm or 11pm at night because there was no-one to come and relieve them, and it is not like anyone said thank you to the staff in the morning.

“Morale is low, and I just feel for them.”

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