Nurses have broken their silence to reveal how “unfair” pay deals allegedly made behind their backs have led to relationship breakdowns with colleagues, people leaving the profession and many deciding to pull back on their services – even risking disciplinary action – to make the States wake up to the impact of their actions.
Nurses are there to care for the sick, vulnerable and elderly, but how can that vital service continue if they have lost faith in their work and their managers – even to the point where they are becoming ill themselves?
That’s the warning by a group of nurses who spoke exclusively to Express as a last resort to get their employer - the States of Jersey – to listen and realise the damage an alleged ‘secret’ pay deal with other health professionals has had. They will be holding a union meeting to hold a vote of no confidence in Health management later this month.
“Nurses have been left completely shredded morale-wise and they have nothing left to give. This is the final straw. People have left as they’ve just had enough. An awful lot of us that bring in a huge amount of skill have been treated as idiots,” one nurse commented.
Due to the “bullying and blame culture” they allege is now rife in the Health Service, they only agreed to speak to Express on condition of anonymity. “If you raise a problem, you become the problem. That’s how you get treated.”
Pictured: Some health professionals including social workers, physiotherapists, and mental health workers have been given a pay rise but nurses haven't.
They said they feel angry, betrayed and insulted after learning that the States handed a pay rise to their allied health professionals, including some social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists (OTs), pharmacists and mental health workers without union involvement. This came despite a States promise to resolve the pay gap between those employed on a civil servant grade and nurses in 2014 – more than a decade after the issue was first raised in 2007.
Although the nurses say it’s demoralising to hear that their colleagues will gain up to £5,000 extra after years of fighting for equal pay, the worst part is that senior management allegedly told them to keep it secret.
“This is absolutely the worst it’s ever been - I’ve never known morale be so low, never at all,” said a nurse who has worked in Jersey’s Health department for several years. He says it’s broken the relationship between nurses and these health professionals, with many not even able to make eye contact anymore due to the “terrible atmosphere” created by the deal.
Another nurse added: “The damage it’s done in terms of dynamics within teams is phenomenal because you have mixed teams. Social workers are now paid at least £10,000 to £11,000 more, even though they do the same job. Social workers are able to pass on a lot of what they do to nurses, but there’s no crossover the other way, as social workers don’t have the clinical skills. So nurses get dumped with a lot of social worker’s stuff and end up with more of the responsibility, worse terms and conditions, work longer hours, work unsocial hours, do all those things but don’t get as much money.”
Terry Hanby from the Jersey Nursing Association said he was told the pay increase was given to try and resolve problems recruiting Children’s Services social workers, highlighted by the Independent Care Inquiry. But Mr Hanby doesn’t understand why the pay reward has been extended to professionals outside of Children’s Services, and why they aren't trying to resolve the nurse recruitment problem.
Pictured: Nurses say they no longer have confidence in States of Jersey management, including new CEO Charlie Parker, after being "betrayed."
He said it’s widened the “disparity that we’ve been trying to close since 2007” and devalues the States’ latest pay of 2.5% to nurses and 2% to civil servants to address the pay gap after unions rejected the Workforce Modernisation offer. It has also emerged that government has agreed to an 11.9% pay rise for all hospital doctors over the next three years.
Questioned by Express, a states spokesperson said: “At any given time there are generally parts of the public sector reorganising to improve services or efficiency. From time to time this may lead to regrading of existing or new jobs. This is part of business as usual and work by Health managers in autumn 2017 led to changes in grading for some staff. The changes were agreed in October 2017 and communicated to affected staff. The changes were not confidential, but staff whose jobs had been upgraded were asked to be sensitive to the feelings of those whose jobs had not.”
But the Jersey Nurses Association is not accepting that. They are holding a union meeting on 18 April to hold a vote of no confidence in Health Management. Mr Hanby says the time for apologies has passed and that the only way forward is “to get pay parity with our allied health professionals when we are doing an equal job to them.”
The nurses who spoke to Express say they’ve lost all confidence with States of Jersey as an employer including Chief Executive Charlie Parker, as he talks of a clear, transparent and accountable workforce – traits they feel the management haven’t demonstrated themselves.
While they have kept quiet up to now, nurses are now ready to show their defiance. Some have refused to wear – or even thrown in the bin – lanyards featuring “motivational” quotes provided by the States of Jersey.
Pictured: Low morale has apparently led to some nurses being unable to look their colleagues in the eye, and showing their defiance through binning lanyards with 'motivational' quotes.
While stating that they will not let islanders suffer, they also say they will no longer provide the service they once did, as all ‘goodwill’ among nurses has gone.
“I would be more than happy for it to impact on my work if that’s the only way to get the message across. I would never let a patient suffer, and I would never not do what needs to be done, but I would be more than happy to ‘work to rule’ if that’s the only way to get the message across. I’m not helping social workers anymore,” one said.
Another told Express: “People are talking about being prepared to be disciplined, as long as it doesn’t affect patient care, but being prepared to remove part of their role which other roles could do as they are so sick of it. I’ve never known people to talk like that before. It’s really bad.
“It’s like being in a prison, everyone is walking around saying ‘how long have you got left?”
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