Strike action looms at Sheffield mental health trust as staff talks stall

Up to 150 staff responsible for looking after mentally ill people in Sheffield could go on strike after talks with NHS chiefs stalled.

By Dan Hayes
Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 10:54 am
Updated Friday, 12th July 2019, 1:40 pm

Public sector union Unison said they had called off six months of negotiations between themselves and the Sheffield Health and Social Care trust after reaching a stalemate.

They said they would now consult with staff about the possibility of taking industrial action up to and including going on strike if their concerns were not addressed.

These centre on a 2017 service reorganisation which Unison say has led to unrealistic individual caseloads, longer working hours and inadequate staffing levels.

Stock image.

This has, they claim, led to poor and unsafe practices and an increase in mental health problems suffered by staff due to deteriorating working conditions.

Unison health lead Charlie Carruth said: “This is purely about service delivery and safety for service users, staff and the wider Sheffield community.

“Staff are very unhappy about the state of affairs at the moment and indicated at the time of the review that hey felt it was a cost cutting exercise and that there would be capacity issues as a consequence.

“They have basically had enough. We have had some recognition of the need for changes but we are saying there needs to be something more fundamental done to make sure the service works.

Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust.

“We need the trust to work with us to provide a service that is effective and sustainable. The reality is that people are not getting the support they are entitled to because people are under so much pressure.”

The most recent Care Quality Commission inspection report highlighted safety and leadership as areas which needed improvement, and also said there had been ‘a deterioration in safety and effectiveness after a reconfiguration of the trust’s services’.

Clive Clarke, deputy chief executive at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The health and wellbeing of our staff is our number one priority. We want them to feel confident that they can provide high quality, safe services to the people of Sheffield.

“Since the reconfiguration, the demand for our services has grown by up to 40 per cent in some areas. Our teams do an incredible job in tough circumstances. We know that this increased demand for their services has put extra strain on staff.

"We are working closely with staff and union representatives to identify improvements and have already announced that we are investing an extra £500,000 into staffing in our Single Point of Access Team and Community Mental Health Teams.

“We’ve also agreed to a maximum caseload for people working in our Community Mental Health Teams.

"Listening to our colleagues is key. Everyone working in these teams has been invited to take part in, and contribute to, a review of the reconfiguration that is being carried out by Sheffield University and we’ll be using the results of the review to continue making improvements.”