Staff at hospital that treats Wigan cancer patients to go on strike

More than 100 staff at the specialist hospital that treats many of Wigan’s cancer patients are taking industrial action.
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Those employed at Manchester’s Christie NHS Foundation Trust and its linked pathology provider will strike for 24 hours from 7am on Thursday March 2 over pay.

The workers’ union, Unite, says that more strikes will be scheduled if the government fails to address poor pay and unsafe staffing across the NHS.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “NHS workers, all over the country, know that without a proper pay deal staff will leave in ever greater numbers and no one will replace them. This will push patient care, already on the brink, over a proverbial cliff. So, in effect, in every type of healthcare job, workers are striking to save the NHS.

The Christie hospital, ManchesterThe Christie hospital, Manchester
The Christie hospital, Manchester
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“The only way this dispute will end is if the government puts forward a pay offer that is substantial enough to maintain current staffing levels and attract tens of thousands of new recruits to the service. The longer the government fails to face up to that fact, the greater the crisis in the NHS will be.”

Unite members at Christie NHS Foundation Trust, which is a specialist cancer treatment hospital, include intensive care unit (ICU) nurses, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) clinical scientists and estates staff. The hospital staff turnover rate is 17 per cent and Unite’s members in all departments report staffing shortages, leading to impacts on services and unsustainable workloads (see notes to editors).

Unite regional officer Gary Owen said: “NHS workers are striking because they know without a proper pay rise, more staff will leave the health service. This will turn the current crisis in patient care into a disaster.”

Staff from WWL holding a day of strike action outside Wigan Infirmary last monthStaff from WWL holding a day of strike action outside Wigan Infirmary last month
Staff from WWL holding a day of strike action outside Wigan Infirmary last month
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Wigan patients have already been affected by industrial action from both ambulance workers and nursing staff who have their own pay disputes.

Wigan Today has asked The Christie for a response, not least to explain what services will and will not be available during Thursday’s strike but we have yet to receive a response.

A Unite member, who manages Christie porters, said: “The difficulties attracting staff to work in (the trust’s estates and facilities department) is matched only by the numbers of staff looking to leave the trust for the sake of any other job that offers 50p more per hour.

“This leaves porters and facilities staff undertaking 60-hour weeks to cover the shortages. Ultimately this affects patients, waiting times grow, appointments are postponed and basic services are reduced to an absolute minimum.”

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A Unite member, who is an ICU nurse, said: “We already don’t have enough experienced staff who can train brand new nurses. At the same time, senior nurses like myself often get moved to cover wards that are short staffed. How can we train inexperienced nurses in such a complex environment when we are used to fill gaps on a daily basis? It causes huge anxiety and frustration.”

A Unite member, who is an MRI clinical scientist, said: “Radiographers at Christie are exhausted. They are being poached by private providers to do easier work for a higher hourly rate on mobile scanners for routine outpatients, which have low rates of complications and require less training and experience.

“Recently this has led to such short staffing that NHS scanners have had to be shut down or staffed by agency workers, often the same radiographers who previously worked on them for the NHS, at a higher cost.”