UNISON warning over zero hours contracts in NHS

UNISON is warning that a damaging culture of zero-hours contracts is taking hold in the NHS as a result of changes introduced by the Tory-led coalition. The move could ultimately diminish patient care, and impact on staff training and development in the NHS, warned the UK’s largest health union.

Under recent changes to the way health services are commissioned and provided, companies that meet a minimum standard of service can be put on a list to provide health services which are paid for by the NHS. Patients can then chose which provider they want to be treated by.

As providers get no guarantees about the number of treatments they will have to carry out, and because they have to demonstrate that they have spare capacity to qualify, UNISON fears that they will resort to using zero-hours contracts in a bid to balance their books.

Sara Gorton, UNISON Senior National Officer for Health, said:

“We are getting worrying feedback that the use of zero-hours contracts, including for highly trained health workers, is increasing in the NHS. This is a direct result of changes the Tory-led coalition has made to the way health services are commissioned and provided.

“Providers may claim that they have sufficient staff to provide services, but given that staff are employed on such a casual basis, there will be no guarantee that they will be able to work. Staff on zero-hours contracts will not get the same training and development as those permanently employed – this is vital to making sure patients get top quality care.

“This casualisation of the NHS workforce is an unnecessary, untested experiment – a nightmare waiting to happen.”

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