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31
Jan

RCN warns of NHS Direct jobs risk


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that as many as 300 frontline staff at NHS Direct could lose their jobs. The organisation plans to introduce new roster arrangements to cut costs as they begin moving towards the new NHS 111 services, which are due to be rolled out through this year and next.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that as many as 300 frontline staff at NHS Direct could lose their jobs. The organisation plans to introduce new roster arrangements to cut costs as they begin moving towards the new NHS 111 services, which are due to be rolled out through this year and next.

This follows an extensive consultation period with the RCN and other trade unions, who oppose the changes. Those staff who are not able to work on the revised shift patterns will be dismissed, says the RCN, with the option to reapply for the remaining shifts. This will include staff who have flexible working arrangements, such as carers of young children and those who currently work fewer than 15 hours per week.

RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter, said: "What we are seeing here is a clear example of quality being compromised in a bid to make short-term savings. NHS Direct has developed over recent years into a service that many patients really value. Nurses have led the way in making this a service which can offer reassurance and advice that on many occasions avoids GP referrals and unnecessary trips to hospital."

Dr Carter continued: "NHS Direct employs higher numbers of disabled workers who may not be able to cope with the physical demands of a hospital ward, yet are still able to provide sound clinical advice to patients. If these workers lose their jobs, they may struggle to find future employment within a health care setting and as a result the NHS will lose their expert skills."

The RCN has also expressed concern that patients will receive a stripped-back service from NHS 111, with more being advised to dial 999 or go to A&E, which will prove more costly in the long-term.

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