What does UNISON do for Nursing?

Nearly half a million UNISON members work in the NHS and for organisations providing NHS services in all four countries of the UK. We recognise and defend the rights of all workers in the health service. By working together within UNISON, health sector workers are better able to fight for change.

As nursing is one specific group within UNISON, this occupational group take forward projects, policy work and negotiations around workforce issues specific to nursing. This includes the following;

  • Defending Agenda for Change: In England, revisions to Agenda for Change were consulted and agreed on last year in response to a number of NHS trusts attempting to ‘break away’ from the national agenda for change agreement.

Members in these trusts had to organise, campaign and take industrial action to try and stop the employers reducing terms and conditions and moving to local contracts. As a result of members accepting the England-only revisions to Agenda for Change, this halted breakaway trusts from pursuing local agreements and has ensured that the national agreement was maintained.

Locally we sit on Job Evaluation panels as well, making sure that jobs are correctly banded. If you see a job description saying ‘(subject to evaluation)’ this means that the post hasn’t been banded yet. If it says Band 4 (subject to evaluation) we ensure that this is removed. It’s up to the Job Evaluation panel to assign a Banding to any post. It isn’t the job of the employer.

  • Downbanding jobs: NHS staff are placed on a pay scale by reference to a UK-wide NHS job evaluation scheme. The scheme ensures that staff doing the same job in different places are paid the same. This protects employers from equal pay legal cases.

Many employers have responded to shrinking budgets by moving staff to lower pay bands but without changing the content of the job. If employers do this without following proper processes it can recreate the unequal pay that led to the need to introduce Agenda for Change in the first place as well as leading to serious misapplication of skills in vital areas of the NHS.

In CNWL, restructuring can lead to down banding as people move to a different post within the Trust. This may or may not come with pay protection Unison locally is fighting against a proposal in reducing the length of time that pay can be protected. If you are placed in a job with a lower band, you currently have up to 4 year’s protection depends on the length of service. CNWL propose to reduce this to a maximum of 3 years. UNISON is currently negotiating to maintain the  current 4 years protection.

  • Be Safe: There is currently no legislation that sets out minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. UNISON believes this should change. We want legislation that ensures there is a minimum of one registered nurse per four patients for every department across the health service. The inquiry into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust identified a link between appropriate staffing levels and safe, compassionate care.

Over 90% of respondents in UNISON’s 2013 staffing levels survey said they support mandatory minimum staffing levels.

A squeeze on staffing levels leaves too few nurses trying to care for too many patients. UNISON’s 2014 staffing levels survey running on empty showed that staff reported having to work longer and being unable to provide the care they would like to.

  • The majority of staff regularly worked unpaid extra hours.
  • 50% worked through their breaks and over their shift time.
  • 61% felt they did not have enough time with each patient.
  • 58% said there were not enough staff to deliver safe, dignified and compassionate care.
  • 51% said they were not confident about raising concerns.
  • 54% said care was left undone due to staffing.
  • Increasingly, student nurses and healthcare assistants are being asked to do work they are not trained for or qualified to do.
  • If nurses’ workloads are stretched, they have less time to support student nurses and healthcare assistants providing care.
  • Working with staff:

Of course, UNISON is also there when you need us, if things go wrong. Locally, we have never been as busy as we are now representing members in disciplinary hearings and giving advice to members regarding their rights under the CNWL Disciplinary Policy. If we need to, UNISON’s legal department can also help represent you at industrial tribunals or the NMC, but rest assured- very few cases go that far.

  • What else do we do locally?

Well, UNISON chairs the JNC where new policies are discussed and agreed before being finalised. This includes clinical as well as managerial and operational policies.

We also look at Health and Safety in the workplace through our health and Safety Reps. This can be nurses as well as any other staff member.

And don’t forget UNISON has always been a sponsor of the CNWL nursing conference and this year we are very proud to say we were the only union supporting this dedicated day for nurses.

  • What about the future?

One thing we’d like to do is set up a specific group looking at nursing issues within the Trust. Now that CNWL has disbanded the Directorate of Nursing, which UNISON opposed throughout, we believe that nurses should still have somewhere they can go to discuss many of the clinical issues they face- without fear that they will have to raise issues with management. UNISON can do this on your behalf anonymously if necessary. Many UNISON workplace contacts are nurses who understand the pressures placed on staff every day.

So why not join the only union making a difference in CNWL. If you’re already a UNISON member, consider becoming a workplace contact. You’ll receive full training and paid time off from your work duties to help you.

If you’re not a member of UNISON, join today and see the difference you can make or talk to  Rami, our Branch Sec, and Staff side Chair or to Simon, the branch Chair.

Please contact Unison Direct on 08000857857 Or email

Many Thanks


Kind regards,

Unison CNWL Branch.



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