Roster plan worries Hunter nurses

Pattern rostering may be restrictive and inflexible

A proposal to introduce ‘responsive rostering’ including ‘pattern rostering’ is causing concern among nurses in the Hunter New England Area Health Service.

Under the proposal, the area’s centralised staffing service would be involved in developing the rosters in consultation with NUMs. Nurses will then be allocated a roster line, which would run for a minimum of three months.

Once the roster was posted, nurses wishing to change some or all of their shifts would have to negotiate changes with their NUM with no guarantee that requests would be partially or fully met.

Nurses currently make requests before the roster comes out, in consultation with the NUM.

Area management has told the NSW Nurses’ Association the proposal is now in a ‘consultation stage’. If pattern rostering is adopted it would be trialled in the greater Newcastle sector – Belmont, John Hunter, mental health, Maitland, and Royal Newcastle – before being implemented in the entire area.

Management has told the NSWNA that pattern rostering would give nurses a more predictable work pattern. However, the union fears the system would be inflexible and unable to satisfy individual nurses’ requirements.

The union is represented on various roster committees.

The NSWNA also pushed for the formation of a union-specific consultative committee to address members’ concerns. At a meeting on 19 March, NSWNA officers reiterated members’ concerns and stated that the union would not support a more restrictive and inflexible rostering system.

General Secretary Brett Holmes said the proposed move to pattern rostering was causing a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among members.

‘They fear it will be too restrictive and will make it harder for nurses to choose to work on particular days,’ Brett said.

‘We are concerned that it will not adequately cater for staff with carer requirements, staff on permanent shifts such as night duty, staff attending education and other personal commitments outside of work.

‘Many NUMs fear that pattern rostering will create more work for them because they will have to juggle requests after they have put the roster out.’

Brett has also written to the area’s chief executive officer, Dr Nigel Lyons, pointing out that the area has presented no real evidence that the current rostering system is inefficient.

‘To the contrary, we are receiving feedback from members at all levels that overall the current system works,’ he wrote.

‘The members have voiced their concerns regarding the apparent lack of consultation about the proposal, in particular the lack of opportunity to comment on the current system and maybe offer suggestions for improvement.’

At the time of printing, talks were continuing between the NSWNA and HNEAHS.

In early April, the NSWNA will be mailing members a survey to obtain their feedback on the new system.