NHS Tayside district nurses have been “badly let down” by the health board and Scottish Government, after it appeared an agreed pay-deal arrangement had been “reneged on”, it has been claimed
A three-year dispute surrounding pay-grade scales has seen multiple nurses left without the money due to them, unions and nurses have said.
The initial process NHS Tayside undertook during the negotiations was described as “flawed” by the Scottish Government and nurses thought they had finally won when in September they were contacted to say the pay-award would be made.
Dundee-based North East Labour MSP Michael Marra raised the issue in parliament on Wednesday afternoon, following an initial question by SNP Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick.
Mr Marra asked the Health Secretary to urgently intervene, after it emerged over the NHS Tayside had allegedly dropped their commitment made to nurses only weeks ago to re-grade the nurses as a group.
This is a farce that has turned into a scandal.”
Michael Marra MSP
NHS Tayside is instead opting for an “unprecedented process” of individual re-grading which runs against established practices and could see staff doing the same job being placed on different grades, according to Mr Marra and trade unions.
Mr Marra said: “In June 2018, in April 2019 and on September 1 this year, district nurses were told in a phone conversation that the award would be made.
“On Tuesday this week, they were told that the process is now being changed from a group negotiation to an individual process.
He added: “This is a farce that has turned into a scandal.
“These district nurses are consummate professionals on the frontline of healthcare in our communities. They have been badly let down by the Scottish Government and NHS Tayside.
“They have been working flat out during the pandemic. They are not seeking a reward but simply the pay that they are due.
“This process has been flawed from the start and has dragged on for far too long. It is beggars belief that NHS Tayside have broken their promise of just a few weeks ago. It is now untenable that the Health Secretary will not personally intervene.
“I have written to him to request he urgently meets with me and representatives of the workforce, so this issue can finally be resolved.”
Responding to both questions, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I will press NHS Tayside on that. As the member is aware, it is hugely important that those nationally agreed procedures are followed. Nevertheless, I agree that there should be some pace to that.
“I responded to the original correspondence to me from Ms Jacqueline Finnegan, who had written to pursue the matter on behalf of district nurses. There is a lot of support for the campaign within and outwith the nursing community.”
He added: “I do not disagree with Mr Marra’s characterisation that there was a flaw in the process initially, in 2018. That was uncovered after a freedom of information request either earlier this year or at the tail-end of last year. He is right to say that there was a flaw in the process, and NHS Tayside has acknowledged that.
“I am always happy to meet members, but I would give him an assurance and absolute comfort that, according to my discussions with NHS Tayside, it is progressing the matter.
“He and Mr FitzPatrick are right in saying that it should be progressed at pace, because it is, understandably, causing consternation to the district nurses involved.”
Mr FitzPatrick said: “I am very grateful to the Health Secretary for agreeing to press NHS Tayside to make progress on this issue.
“I am also seeking an urgent update from NHS Tayside on what progress has been made with agreeing the job evaluation process with staff and unions.
“I am determined to ensure that NHS Tayside agrees to a robust evaluation process that is not only in line with well-established national procedures, but also has the support of the district nurses themselves and their unions.”
A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “NHS Tayside remains in active discussions with trade union representatives to resolve this issue.
“Our discussions over the past month have been focusing on the fair application of pay and conditions for staff through the nationally-agreed processes, with NHS Tayside and trades union colleagues agreeing that it is important that every staff member involved has their grade applied correctly.
“We recognise that discussions between local managers and the trade unions had been going on for some time, which is not a satisfactory position for the staff concerned. That is why the Board has taken a direct role in seeking resolution for our staff.
“We are redoubling efforts to secure early agreement with our trade unions to deliver a fair outcome for our staff as quickly as can be achieved through the national process set out for all Boards, and as agreed across NHS Scotland with all trade unions.”