Hunter rostering under review

New rostering system suspended, Commission calls for research into the current system.

Following intervention from the NSWNA, the Hunter New England Area Health Service (HNEAHS) has suspended the implementation of its contentious new rostering system until further study is completed.

Both parties met in June and agreed that there should be more research into the current roster system, and the complexities behind it, in order to assist in addressing the concerns of both the NSWNA and the HNEAHS.

The research project will be jointly conducted by the NSWNA and the HNEAHS and discussions will be held over the next month with health units chosen for the initial phase of the study.

Units at John Hunter Hospital, John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Royal Newcastle Centre, the Maitland Hospital and Mental Health Services have been selected to participate in the review.

The NSWNA has raised a number of concerns about responsive rosters including the effects on nurses with carer’s responsibilities, disabilities, injuries or restricted work capacities.

Other concerns raised by the Association include the inflexibility of the proposed system and its effects on nurses’ work-life balance, the retention of nurses, and the workplace skills mix. The NSWNA will also look at whether the HNEAHS’s criticisms of the current system will be adequately addressed by responsive rostering – a system many nurses fear is pattern rostering by another name.

The HNEAHS has concerns that the current system of request-based rostering can impede patient care and staff safety, and impacts on fairness and equity in rostering. It believes responsive rosters will also address the current high use of short notice overtime and casual staff while improving the skill mix.

The NSW IRC will assist both parties to work through the very complex issue of nurse rostering and both parties will retain an expert to establish the study’s methodology.

Catherine Carroll, who is currently undertaking a PhD in rostering, will assist the NSWNA.