A nursing union has warned proposed changes to shift patterns at Ninewells Hospital will put patient safety at risk by creating conditions for more clinical errors to happen.
NHS Tayside is in discussion with its nursing and midwifery staff about introducing new, standardised, shift patterns across Tayside.
It has been suggested the shifts would run from 7am to 3pm, 1pm to 9pm and from 8.30pm to 7.30am.
However, nurses fear they may only be given 10 hours’ rest between shifts, in contravention of European Working Time Directive which says workers must have a break of at least 11 hours between shifts.
One nurse, who did not want to be named, said: “Workers who finish at 9pm and live in places such as Forfar, Arbroath or Leuchars will not get home until 10pm and will have to wake up at five for an early shift. How can this benefit patient safety?”
She added: “The only motivation is to save money on nursing staff wages because of the overspend NHS Tayside has suffered.
“The chief executive Lesley McLay has stated ‘patients will not suffer’ but to have an exhausted workforce, who are already burning out, have to deal with these shifts is not conducive to patient safety.”
Some nurses at the hospital have called for the introduction of 12-hour shift patterns instead.
Irenee O’Neill, general secretary of the Independent Federation of Nursing in Scotland union also said she also feared the potential impact on patients.
“The problem with the NHS is the managers know the cost of everything but the value of nothing,” she said.
“If a risk assessment was done I am sure it would show it increase the chance of a nurse making a clinical mistake. There is no doubt there will be more drug errors, more clinical errors. That is the price you will pay.”
A spokeswoman for union Unison said: “Talks are ongoing with senior management as regards standardisation of nursing shifts. No final decisions have been made.
” We are working together towards shifts that will give continuity of patient care as well as giving staff an acceptable work life balance, adhering to Working Time Regulations and NHS Tayside Rostering Policy.”
NHS Tayside nurse director Gillian Costello said: “NHS Tayside is committed to ensuring the provision of safe, quality, patient-centred care and treatment for everyone using our services.
“In line with that commitment, we are currently looking at how best we can strengthen our nursing and midwifery teams to further meet the needs of people requiring nursing and midwifery services and to enhance delivery of care for patients. This includes consideration towards reviewing our shift patterns.”
Human resources director George Doherty added: “Historically, our nursing staff have worked a variety of shift and break patterns. Early high level reviews suggest that by standardising our shifts we can improve the quality and continuity of care for our patients.
“No decision has been taken on the shape of any new shift patterns, and through engagement and consultation with all our nursing and midwifery staff, and with our trades unions, we aim to agree the best model to ensure NHS Tayside has the right staff in the right place and at the right time.”