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On September 4th 2015 the CEO Robert Morton wrote the following " I will be encouraging everyone to remember we are one, we are EEAST". At the time these were promising and encouraging words, but if you work for Patient Transport or in Support Services you may well be feeling that sentiment intended by such a statement has bypassed you.
For almost a year we have been campaigning over the unfair differences in the meal break arrangements between PTS and Frontline crews. These differences
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Having been live for a little over three months the Patient Transport Service Meal Break Survey has now been closed. Just under 150 of you responded and the results are very revealing, if not surprising.
The results full report can be found by clicking the link
Following a change to the Meal Break arrangements in 2011 PTS crews are no longer eligible to claim certain payments that are, available to staff working on the Emergency side of the service. Whether you work for Frontline or PTS you are Operational road staff employed by the same employer and should therefore be treated equally. The current arrangements are, in my opinion, unfair and have created a two tier system that is detrimental to PTS crews who, frequently, either have late meal breaks or have no meal break at all during their shift. This has been evidenced in the results of the survey and further supported by the amount of phone calls and emails I have received in relation to this matter.
The main differences in the arrangements are as follows
For a Late Meal Break that is taken outside of a specified "window" but taken at somepoint within a shift PTS are not eligible for any payment but Frontline crews receive a payment
For a missed meal break, where no break is taken at all during the shift, PTS crews are eligible for a payment. Frontline crews are eligible for a payment PLUS 30 minutes In Lieu
These issues were the main premise for the survey and the motion to have the PTS Meal Break arrangements reviewed have the support of Branch. I will keep you updated on the outcome.
Other questions in the survey were based on further aspects of the Meal Break Arrangements and the adherence to them. It was disappointing and frustrating to discover that the survey revealed that in many instances the arrangements are being deliberately ignored, as are protests of crews who wish to take their meal breaks within the context of the arrangement.
As PTS Crews your meal break should be allocated at the start of your shift, this can be done by directly communicating with control, or it should be already scheduled into your planned work.
Your meal break SHOULD be taken within your meal break window or at the earliest opportunity if that window has passed. Do not let yourself be persuaded to do "one more job"
Once stood down for your meal break you should be sent to the nearest Trust ambulance station where you are able to make full use of all the facilities including rest rooms, crew rooms and kitchen areas. Your break should not commence until you are at station. If the station you attend meets the criteria, you will also be eligible for an out of area payment.
If you are having issues over your meal breaks or feel that the arrangements are not being adhered to please seek advice from one of your Reps.
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NES / PTS Blog
Since my last posting we have gone through a General Election and once again The Conservatives are in Government and whatever your political affiliations or persuasion one thing is certain for all of us. Austerity and further cuts are still very much the buzzword of the day and hand in hand with that we can expect to see the continued privatisation of many Public Services including the large chunks of the NHS and the Ambulance sector.
Recently we have learned that another PTS service has been lost to a private provider. The Acute Neonatal Transfer Service (ANTS) contract based at the Rosie Hospital Addenbrookes, has been awarded to St Johns Ambulance Service. The contract is quite small and 8 members of staff will be affected but it is nevertheless another blow to the Trust and those that work on the contract. For staff that do not want to TUPE across to St Johns, Liz McEwan has PTS vacancies available and you should let her know you are interested as soon as possiible
The newly acquired PTS contract in West Essex went live on theMay 1st and I would like to welcome the staff that TUPE’d from Medical Services into the Trust and hope that you are now settled. It is a bit of an unknown quantity for Branch at the moment as the staff have been brought in under their existing Terms and conditions and are not on AFC and we are uncertain as to what those T&C’s are. I am hoping to be able to meet with you all in the near future and discuss any concerns and answer any questions that you may have.
I have been contacted by several PTS staff who have expressed concerns regarding issues in the workplace most of which can be put into one of two categories, adherence to policies and Health & Safety.
These issues include feeling pressured to drive and use vehicles with defects, Health & Safety advice or instructions from Unison being ignored,The meal break policy not being followed and the leave policy being overlooked especially in relation to Christmas leave applications.
When it comes to Vehicle defects, as a driver of a vehicle, you have responsibility for that vehicle whilst it is on the road and any defects that make it illegal or unroadworthy means that you should not drive it. It is your licence at risk. Likewise if a vehicle has a defect that does not make it illegal to drive but that could risk the H&S and wellbeing of a patient or anybody else that uses the vehicle, Don’t drive it.
I am hoping to work closely with Jeff Pittman, Branch H&S Officer in dealing with some of these issues and we could be coming to a station near you.
Meal breaks are always a contentious issue for all staff across the Trust and PTS is no different. The Trust actually gives longer breaks than are allowed by law but considering the workload and time pressures put upon us it is still a very small amount of time in which to have a break and those in control rooms can often forget how tiring it can be to drive for long distances on a shift often without time to stop for refreshments or a much needed toilet break.
So when we have these pressures put upon us and the meal break policy is ignored it can lead to staff having a late break or no break at all and that is not acceptable.
Please take a look at the policy, which can be found on the Trust intranet under the PTS tab, and ensure that it is being followed in your place of work. I have also designed a quick and simple Meal Break Survey for PTS staff and this will be available in a different posting. Please take the time to complete it, it is only 6 questions and will take a couple of minutes.
Again, I would like to appeal to anybody that is interested in becoming more active within UNISON to let your local Rep know and they will advise you of the steps you to take.
Branch NES Officer
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PTS MEAL BREAK SURVEY
Having had feedback from staff many of you have expressed concern that you regularly have a late meal break or go without a meal break altogether. Clearly the meal break policy is not being followed in many areas of the Trust and this need to be tackled. It is also worrying that many of you feel pressured into not taking a break because of the workload and pressures from control to carry on and complete your planned journeys. It is accepted that the work has to be done and the Patients have to be Transported to their Homes and Appointments, but not at the detriment of staffs welfare. You regularly cover a lot of miles and should be taking at least one uninterrupted break during your shift. The break time should fall within the “meal break window” and it should be allocated at the start of your shift either by verbal arrangement or be already planned on the PDA. You should also be taking your meal break at the Trust Station, nearest to your location, where you are able to access and use all facilities and your break should not commence until you are at that station.
There are obvious causes for concern in the way that the “Meal Break Policy” is used in practice so I have designed a survey http://kwiksurveys.com/s/ZFFfxz6W in an effort to discover what the problems are and where they are.
Please take the time to complete it there are only a few questions and it should only take a couple of minutes. You can click on the link or scan the barcode into your smartphone or tablet
Mike Hill Unison NES Officer
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MESSAGE TO ALL NES / PTS STAFF
This will be my first attempt at putting pen to paper since becoming NES Branch Officer back in March.
I would like to start by thanking the my predecessor Claire Stuart for all the effort and hard work that she put in during her time in post and wish her well in her new role as joint Norfolk County Lead.
Over the last year the NES / PTS services have been subject to a particularly uncertain time with PTS contract losses in Mid Essex & Norfolk to ERS Medical (SRCL) and that affected many staff including Claire and myself. On the plus side the Trust successfully tendered for the PTS contract in West Essex and that is due to go live on May 1st.
tI would be nice to be able to say that the coming year promises to be less challenging than the last but unfortunately this will not be the case. Recently it has been announced that the 111 service in Norfolk will be taken over by IC24 and this again potentially affects a large amount of staff and we have just learned that North East Essex CCG have decided to put the PTS contract in that area up for tender which undoubtedly result in our colleagues involved feeling very anxious about what the future may hold.
As a Branch we will of course offer all the help support and advice needed to those affected , including the incoming staff of the West Essex contract to be TUPE’d from Medical Services
Coming from a PTS background myself I know that members of staff can sometimes feel as though the NES arm of the Trust are often overlooked by their Branch. The frontline services grab the headlines and a lot of campaigning and work that goes on seems to be focused around the issues affecting the operational side I would like to take this opportunity to assure all NES staff & members that this couldn’t be further from the truth. NES is very highly regarded and just as valued by Branch for the role they play within the Trust. A vast amount of work goes on at all levels that very often goes unmentioned or unseen .
Barry Jarvis, the Branch Convenor, wrote the following in his report for this years AGM
“This year the branch has faced criticism for being too ‘operationally focused’ and not doing enough for those working in the so called ‘support services’. I can assure you that this is not the case, myself and other Branch colleagues have spent the majority of the year working with and on behalf of ‘support service’ colleagues doing our very best to help in any way we could. I do accept the criticism that we as a branch do not always publicise this work and I personally apologise for that as it’s my responsibility to do that and I did not provide enough articles for our various means of communication but do not confuse the lack of communication with lack of effort dedication and work that has been put in by members of your branch on these matters”
If any of you would be interested in becoming more active there are several ways you can do this including talking to your colleagues and encouraging them to join, becoming a Workplace Contact or becoming a Rep. You can find out more online or by talking to your local / station Rep
Branch NES Officer