Stranded NHS staff told to take days off as holiday

Employees at some NHS trusts were being told last week that they would have to take annual leave if they could not get into work because of the fuel crisis.

Staff from a number of hospitals in the North East and South West contacted the MSF union for advice after being told failure to show up would mean taking the days off as holiday.

One district nurse at Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust who contacted Personnel Today said she had avoided having to take holiday by queuing for petrol for an hour and a half. She was offered no alternative to taking holiday or finding petrol, she said.

But trusts were going out of their way to ensure staff who rely on their cars, such as district nurses and midwives, had access to fuel.

Aintree Hospital Trust set up an emergency centre to match staff with petrol supplies in local garages.

North West Wales NHS Trust managed to buy a 40,000-litre tank for use by staff.

Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust set up a special bus service with a local bus company and was also matching priority staff to fuel.

The trust’s HR director Judith Hardisty said, like other trusts in the area, it evoked its bad weather policy to deal with the crisis.

Although this states that staff unable to get to work should take holiday or unpaid leave, she denied that staff were being forced to take holiday.

“We have been asking people to report in to their nearest hospital or clinic,” said Hardisty. “People should be able to get in somewhere. Some people have taken leave because that is what they preferred to do.”

An RCN spokeswoman said trusts were within their rights to ask staff to take leave, but she would expect them to be flexible given the efforts people were making to get to work.

“Some district nurses have literally been getting on their bikes. At a time of nurse shortages you don’t want to be too heavy handed about how you treat people,” she said.

 By Dominique Hammond

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