“Vital” clinical support workers “deserve to be treated fairly” by employer – Wirral MPs write to local NHS trust over ongoing strike action

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06 Feb 2024

Two Wirral MPs, Margaret Greenwood and Mick Whitley have written to the Chief Executive and the Chairman of Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) over the strike action currently being taken by clinical support workers based at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals.

The workers are striking over pay and back-pay that they believe they are entitled to for carrying out duties and tasks that are above their pay grade.

Unison, the union representing the workers, has said that these clinical support workers, who are on Band 2 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale, should only be providing personal care to patients. This includes things like bathing and feeding.

However, for many years they have also been undertaking clinical tasks, such as taking and monitoring blood, performing electrocardiogram tests, taking patient observations and  removing cannulas. These are duties that should be carried out by Band 3 staff – who receive around £2,000 a year more in wages.

Margaret Greenwood MP and Mick Whitley MP say in their letter that these Band 2 clinical support workers “deserve to be recognised financially for the additional work that they have been doing.”

The dispute has escalated in recent weeks, with strikes taking place at weekends for the first time since action began in August of last year.

According to Unison, following ACAS talks, the trust agreed to a back-pay date for the clinical support workers of up to 1 April 2018, which is in line with agreements made with a number of other trusts across the North West. The union has also explained that WUTH agreed that undertaking one clinical duty from a list would be sufficient to qualify for back-pay, however, the union understands that the trust's proposed list of clinical duties is far more stringent than any lists which have been agreed with trusts elsewhere in the region.

As a result, it seems that a significant number of workers would be excluded from the process and miss out on back-pay and re-grading – something which Margaret Greenwood and Mick Whitley have said is “incredibly disappointing”.

In their letter, Margaret Greenwood MP and Mick Whitley MP say:

“Clinical support workers are incredibly important members of the NHS workforce. Those employed by WUTH provide care and support to some of the most vulnerable patients in Wirral, and they do it with a great deal of sensitivity and skill.

“They are vital to the functioning of the NHS. Without them, services would not be able to run effectively. They are dedicated and committed professionals who care deeply about patients.

“It is a clear moral principle that staff should be paid according to the level of work that they are required to do and we urge you to make sure that this happens in Wirral. NHS staff deserve to be treated fairly and in line with national job profiles.

“We understand that, having agreed to back-pay up to 1 April 2018, we now have a situation where hundreds of clinical support workers are not eligible to receive the higher levels of pay and the back-pay to which they believe they are entitled.

“We are concerned about the impact that this will have on the long term morale of not only clinical support workers, but all staff at WUTH.

“We are concerned that WUTH has still not been able to settle this dispute, especially given that three other trusts in Cheshire and Merseyside – East Cheshire NHS Trust, Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust – have recently settled similar disputes by making what Unison has called ‘significantly better offers’.

“We also understand from Unison that seven other trusts in the North West have also settled on much better offers. Why hasn’t WUTH done this? Are clinical support workers valued less in Wirral? We are concerned not only about these implications, but also what this may mean for future recruitment.

“We understand that WUTH has said that it remains open to talks and that it is committed to finding a resolution. We call on you to make every effort to engage constructively with the clinical support workers and Unison to bring about a swift and satisfactory outcome to this dispute.”


***FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER***

To: Janelle Holmes, Chief Executive, and Sir David Henshaw, Chairman, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Sent by email

6 February 2024

Dear Janelle and Sir David,

We are writing to you regarding the strike action currently being undertaken by clinical support workers who are employed by Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals.

As you know, they are taking strike action over pay and back-pay that they believe they are entitled to for carrying out duties and tasks that are above their pay grade.

Their union, Unison, has said that these clinical support workers, who are on Band 2 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale, should only be providing personal care to patients. This includes things like bathing and feeding. However, Unison points out that for many years they have also been undertaking clinical tasks, such as taking and monitoring blood, performing electrocardiogram tests, taking patient observations and removing cannulas. These are duties that should be carried out by Band 3 staff – who receive around £2,000 a year more in wages.

These Band 2 clinical support workers deserve to be recognised financially for the additional work that they have been doing.

We understand from Unison that, following initial strike action and ACAS talks, the trust agreed to a back-pay date of up to 1 April 2018, which is in line with agreements made with a number of trusts across the North West, and that they agreed that undertaking one clinical duty from a list would be sufficient to qualify for back-pay. However, we have heard that the trust's proposed list of clinical duties is far more stringent than any lists which have been agreed with trusts elsewhere in the region. For instance, Unison have told us that the trust's list does not include a number of standalone clinical duties which are included on the Band 3 NHS national job profile, such as patient observations, removing cannulas, blood glucose testing and removing catheters, despite the fact that these duties should be paid for at Band 3. As a result, it seems that under the trust's proposals a significant number of workers would be excluded from the process.

This is incredibly disappointing. It is a clear moral principle that staff should be paid according to the level of work that they are required to do and we urge you to make sure that this happens in Wirral. NHS staff deserve to be treated fairly and in line with national job profiles.

We understand that, having agreed to back-pay up to 1 April 2018, we now have a situation where hundreds of clinical support workers are not eligible to receive the higher levels of pay and the back-pay to which they believe they are entitled.

We are concerned about the impact that this will have on the long term morale of not only clinical support workers, but all staff at WUTH.

We are concerned that WUTH has still not been able to settle this dispute, especially given that three other trusts in Cheshire and Merseyside – East Cheshire NHS Trust, Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust – have recently settled similar disputes by making what Unison has called “significantly better offers”. We also understand from Unison that seven other trusts in the North West have also settled on much better offers. Why hasn’t WUTH done this? Are clinical support workers valued less in Wirral? We are concerned not only about these implications, but also what this may mean for future recruitment.

As you will clearly be aware, clinical support workers are incredibly important members of the NHS workforce. Those employed by WUTH provide care and support to some of the most vulnerable patients in Wirral, and they do it with a great deal of sensitivity and skill.

They are vital to the functioning of the NHS. Without them, services would not be able to run effectively. They are dedicated and committed professionals who care deeply about patients.

It is also evident that the clinical support workers have the backing of local communities across Wirral.

Strikes have escalated in recent weeks, with weekend dates included in the action for the first time since it began in August of last year. This is concerning for the staff involved, for patients and for the running of NHS services in Wirral.

We understand that WUTH has said that it remains open to talks and that it is committed to finding a resolution. We call on you to make every effort to engage constructively with the clinical support workers and Unison to bring about a swift and satisfactory outcome to this dispute.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Greenwood MP                      Mick Whitley MP
Member of Parliament for Wirral West     Member of Parliament for Birkenhead

Promoted by and on behalf of Margaret Greenwood MP, 20 Rushworth Street, London SE1 0SS


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