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Accounting gaffe leads to nurses being asked to ‘work for free’

DISGRUNTLED NURSES at the world-famous Great Ormond Street Hospital are being ordered to work for no pay – or have the time deducted from their annual leave – following an accounting gaffe that caused them to be overpaid by six-and-a-half hours a year.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the draconian move by the NHS trust was badly damaging morale among nurses who already voluntarily work extra hours unpaid.

The sum equates to each nurse being overpaid by an average of £82.

Chief nurse Liz Morgan wrote to the staff saying the situation was one “we must redress and I hope that all the options above allow us to do it in as painless a way as possible.”

But Sue Tarr, London operational manager for the RCN, slammed the Trust’s stance, saying: “We have told Great Ormond Street they ought to withdraw this unreasonable proposal for staff to work unpaid. This is a management error and it should not be down to individual staff members to fix it. The plans will cause significant damage to morale at the trust and that will have knock on effects for patients.

“Great Ormond Street say that without these savings they would need to cut posts. It is pretty offensive to ask staff to pick between the two. It should be down to the management to ensure safe staffing levels within budget, as well as having a roster that reflects the hours people actually work.

“Most importantly, we want to see much more evidence from the trust about how they are monitoring unpaid overtime. Around 66% of Great Ormond Street staff say they work unpaid extra hours every week. All NHS employers rely on the commitment and hard work of their staff to keep the system going and for Great Ormond Street to put that goodwill at risk for the sake of 30 minutes a month seems misguided at best.”

According to Great Ormond Street’s 2013/14 accounts, the children’s hospital had an annual income of £413m.

Its head of HR, Ali Mohammed, the department demanding that the nurses work for free, has an annual salary of between £200,000 to £205,000 – including nearly £85,000 in pension contributions.

A spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust said no individual would be punished for the blunder as “the discrepancy crept in over a number of years due to changing shift patterns so wouldn’t be appropriate”.

However, he did issue a statement: “Our nurses work extremely hard and we are in no way suggesting they should ‘work for free’. We are simply ensuring that nurses are paid for the hours they have agreed to work. Where nurses have worked overtime, we have systems in place to ensure this is recorded and that nurses receive time back for the extra hours they have worked.

“As part of a routine check of rostered hours at the hospital we found a discrepancy whereby full-time nursing staff were working half an hour less each month than the hours they agreed in their contract, which equates to half a shift or 6.5 hours over a year.

“We are not attempting to claim back existing overpayments as we feel this would be unfair to our nurses. However, we have a public duty with public money to correct this issue now it has been detected.”

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  • Oliver featy

    Clearly cut and pasted from the Evening Standard so again, there are many, many factual inaccuracies in this article. Sloppy journalism which really doesn’t look great for your reputation. I’m a nurse at another hospital and this sort of stuff happens; get over it

  • Nursing is a noble job. If nurses work for free, then they should be awarded with high regards from the government.

  • EllieMae’s grandad

    This will cost far more to recover, in terms of financial cost and damage to morale, for what is a management failure. It might be opportune to sack the HR and Finance Directors as well.

  • Aaron

    Ridiculous! If my company overpaid me, I would have to pay it back.