Psychiatric care will be hit by nurses’ overtime ban, Harris says

Union says no meaningful progress in talks on recruitment and retenion problems

Psychiatric nurses are to stage a de facto overtime ban from Thursday July 11 in protest at what they described as a lack of meaningful progress in dealing with recruitment and retention difficulties in the mental health services.   File Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Psychiatric nurses are to stage a de facto overtime ban from Thursday July 11 in protest at what they described as a lack of meaningful progress in dealing with recruitment and retention difficulties in the mental health services. File Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Industry Correspondent

Care for patients in the mental health services will be negatively hit as a result of a new overtime ban to be put in place by psychiatric nurses, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are to stage a de facto overtime ban from Thursday, July 11th in protest at what the trade union described as a lack of meaningful progress in dealing with recruitment and retention difficulties in the mental health services.

The PNA said on Monday that from the commencement of the day roster on next Thursday (July 11th) its members will not make themselves available to work hours above their contracted hours.

Informed sources said the move in essence represented a ban on overtime.

The Minister said on Monday that the decision by members of the PNA to suspend overtime was “disappointing, given the parties are still engaged in conciliation under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

“It will have a negative impact on the delivery of care for patients ,” he said.

The Minister said he hoped that the industrial action would not go ahead.

PNA general secretary Peter Hughes said that the union had suspended earlier industrial action in February – at the time of the three day strike by nurses and midwives – and had subsequently engaged in talks with the Department of Public Expenditure,the Department of Health and the HSE on recruitment and retention problems in a process overseen by the Workplace Relations Commission.

“The PNA believe there has been a lack of good faith in the negotiations over the past four months which has resulted in there appearing to be no prospect of any agreement imminent.”

He said that despite over four months of engagement little progress has been made to address the recruitment and retention issues.

Mr Hughes said that psychiatric nurses were “now irate and frustrated at the disingenuous manner in which the employer has addressed the issues which were to be resolved following the suspension of strike action”.

“In fact while these talks have been making practically no progress, the recruitment and retention crisis has been exacerbated by some of the actions of the HSE itself.

These include:

– an effective embargo on recruitment in the HSE

– in a clear break with the practice of recent years, this year’s graduates have not been assured of permanent posts

– competition from the private sector to recruit mental health nurses has intensified, with significantly improved and attractive salaries on offer.