Why staff at Manchester cancer hospital The Christie are going on strike in NHS industrial dispute over pay

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Staff are worried about the hospital’s struggles to recruit and spoke about poor pay, employee shortages and unsustainable workloads.

Staff at Manchester specialist cancer hospital The Christie have explained why they are taking strike action as more than 100 employees join the NHS industrial dispute about pay.

Employees at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust are walking out on Thursday (2 March) , with both the hospital itself and its linked pathology provider affected by the industrial action.

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Staff at the hospital have spoken about their concerns over poor pay, struggles to recruit new employees and staff shortages leading to impossible and unsustainable workloads.

Trade union Unite, which represents the workers involved in the strike action, says there will be more walk-outs to come if the government fails to address low wages and staffing levels in the health service.

The hospital said it had put plans in place to ensure patients experience the minimum amount of disruption during the strike.

When is the strike at The Christie and why is it happening?

More than 100 staff at The Christie are walking out for 24 hours, starting at 7am on Thursday 2 March. The trade union represents workers at the cancer hospital in roles including intensive care unit (ICU) nurses, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) clinical scientists and estates staff.

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Unite says its members have been telling it that the hospital has a high turnover rate of staff and there are issues with unmanageable workloads and not enough people working there, which is affecting the quality of services for the public. And The Christie staff themselves have been speaking out about their experiences working on the wards.

A Unite member, who manages porters at The Christie, 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.”

Another 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.”

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An MRI clinical scientist represented by Unite in the dispute, 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.”

What has the trade union Unite and The Christie said about the dispute?

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.”

The trade union’s 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.

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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.”

A spokesperson for The Christie said: “We understand that patients may be concerned about the effect of the industrial action, but we have mitigation plans in place to reduce the impact on patients. We are planning to maintain services and patients should continue to attend appointments as planned.”

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