A key part of the national pandemic response is to get as many people as possible to work from home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community and in our workplaces. Nowhere is this more important than in our NHS – where we must safeguard our front-line, patient facing staff from infection so that they are able to support and treat the patients coming through our doors.
At United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust the movement towards homeworking has been inconsistent and slow, this is an issue UNISON raised may times with the executive team and we received assurances that IT infrastructure was being upgraded and progress was being made in getting as many people as possible to do their work from home.
However we were also getting reports from members regarding local department discussions about working from home that just didn’t match up with what we were being told at executive level. With office space across ULHT sites being at a premium many members were complaining that they were unable to socially distance at work, leaving them feeling anxious that they would get sick or take the virus home to their families.
Last week UNISON members in the Cancer Services department at Lincoln and Pilgrim hospitals came together and submitted a collective grievance on this issue. Within 48 hours of receiving this grievance ULHT started taking steps to centralise the roll-out for home working, subsequently staff across the Trust have now been informed whether or not they will be able to work from home entirely, partially or not at all. Shortly all staff identified as being able to work at home should be provided with the correct equipment and access to do so, protecting themselves and their colleagues who still need to come into our hospitals to deliver patient care and essential support services.
By standing together UNISON members in Cancer Services have driven improvement for staff across ULHT – so while we will continue to keep an eye on the situation and ensure the necessary equipment is put in place, it is only right that we take a moment to celebrate their achievement.
These UNISON members provide a great example of what trade unionism is – workers coming together to improve safety and conditions for everyone in their workforce.
I am extremely proud to be their Branch Secretary