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The News Line: News No Uber-style NHS workforce! – GMB union condemns Hunt TORY health secretary Hunt is trying to create an Uber-style workforce in the NHS, with nurses and hospital staff on flexible working hours, just like the gig economy, the GMB warned yesterday.

he union was reacting to Hunt’s speech to the Tory Party conference in which he said that nursing staff would be able to retrain as nurses through a four-year apprenticeship rather than getting a nursing degree.

This September the Tories axed the nurses’ bursaries, meaning that students who want to become a nurse or a midwife end up over £50,000 in debt, whereas before, their fees and some of their living expenses were covered by their bursary.

Hunt claimed that more than 5,000 new training places will be created each year through this scheme which both the GMB and the RCN fear will lead to sub-standard training and therefore substandard patient care, and deaths.

In his speech Hunt also announced plans to introduce an app-based work system to 12 NHS trusts. He said: ‘Nurses need to be able to work flexibly, do extra hours at short notice, get paid more quickly when they do, and make their own choices on pension contributions.

‘So today I’m also announcing that new flexible working arrangements will be offered to all NHS employees during this parliament. And we’ll start next year with 12 trusts piloting a new app-based flexible working offer to their staff.’

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said: ‘As if NHS staff don’t have enough on their plate with real terms pay cuts, stress on the job and ever-increasing workloads – now Jeremy Hunt wants to force them into the gig economy as well.

‘Public sector workers are already putting in £11 billion worth of unpaid overtime every year, and many of our NHS members already take on bank work to make ends meet.
‘The idea that there is some untapped reserve of labour in the NHS that can be unlocked with an app is pure fantasy.

‘Having our overworked, underpaid NHS staff being told, via an app, they are not needed at the last minute is a terrible idea and the start of a slippery slope. You only have to look at this model in health and social care where zero hours contracts and 15 minute slots to look after the elderly have left the system on the brink of collapse. Instead of wasting money creating Uber for the NHS, why doesn’t the health secretary give all NHS staff the pay rise they desperately need?’

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘Significant increases to training numbers is welcome – we desperately need more nurses. However, they must be educated to the highest standards.

‘We are concerned at the risk of students plugging the gaps in the current workforce at the expense of quality patient care and their own learning experience. These plans appear too hospital-focused.’


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