In light of the recently updated NHS Employers’ COVID-19 workforce guidance, UNISON would like to understand the measures you are taking to ensure you are fulfilling the intensions of this guidance to your staff, especially ensuring staff receive full pay during COVID-19 absence.
UNISON recognises the challenging circumstances that staff across the system are working in, the tenacity, flexibility and commitment these staff have demonstrated under pressure is commendable. We also recognise that the system is under unprecedented strain and potentially set to face more demand. However, ensuring staff are treated fairly and consistently is important to ensure that this commitment is maintained for the longer term.
UNISON has received many concerns from members working in private contractors who are facing financial hardship should they get ill or need to shield, or they are being asked to work with inadequate or no PPE at all. As such we have written to commissioners calling on them to ensure that staff working for private ambulance companies, 111 services, on-call doctors etc are not put at greater risk or detriment than directly employed NHS staff to ensure this doesn’t undermine the national effort to contain this virus and protect the vulnerable.
UNISON, nationally, have been a strident ambassador for the safe working conditions for our members. We recognise there are challenges to ensuring staff have the correct PPE across the system. Therefore, we ask that you follow the national advice from Public Health England to ensure a consistent approach across the system in commissioned independent and private healthcare providers. In addition, we are asking all employers to:
- Carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments to keep staff safe
- Give staff access to those risk assessments to give them confidence and reassure them that everything is being done to keep them as safe as possible.
- Explain clearly to staff the scientific evidence employers are using when they make decisions about the provision and use of PPE.
- Make sure staff can access the correct PPE for the work they are doing.
- Provide suitable and effective training and instruction to staff on how to use PPE.
- Follow national and local infection control guidelines.
- Give staff clear instructions on what to do in the event of PPE not being available.
- Support staff to report problems with PPE and ensure recording and investigation of incidents
It is essential that your staff can make safe choices for their own health, those of their families and the service users. Therefore, following the release of the NHS Covid-19 document, UNISON believe there is a onus upon commissioners to ensure the correct funding is in place for private contractors delivering NHS services to support staff who need to self-isolate, to shield and provide care for their family at no financial detriment. We recognise there are a mix of terms and conditions, therefore it is essential that top up funding is provided to ensure stability for these services.
We believe that your commitment to ensuring all workers delivering NHS contracts have fair and consistent working conditions is the most effective way to maintain the long-term effectiveness of the local system.
UNISON East of England Ambulance Branch