Unions threaten industrial action over proposals to cut jobs at NHS Direct

Unions representing workers at NHS Direct in England are warning they may take industrial action over plans to close call centres and cut jobs.

The nurse-led service is trying to save £15m by cutting nearly 800 posts and 12 call centres. NHS Direct argues that the proposals would make it more effective and efficient.

But union Unison and the Royal College of Nursing have warned the proposals would risk lives.

Out to consultation until 16 August, NHS Direct proposes cutting 789 posts – 573 through redundancies and 216 through “natural turnover”. NHS Direct has said that the expansion of some of its call centres would create 376 new posts.

Future industrial action is unlikely to include strikes as the RCN aims to keep disruption to patient care to a minimum. Potential measures would probably involve working to rule.

Unison said a decision on future action would be taken once it was known how NHS Direct was proceeding following the consultation.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “This is a cost-cutting exercise at NHS Direct and could put lives at risk. Staff are so angry at the prospect, unions are gearing up for industrial action.”

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