Following the report in the MK Citizen with regards to agency staff, staffing levels and our Observation Unit on Thursday 12 March 2020 we would like to clarify some facts:
Pay and entitlements for agency workers: Agency staff work for temporary staffing agencies. The Trust contracts with those agencies to find appropriately trained and skilled staff for occasional shifts that cannot be filled by other permanent or NHS bank staff. Agency staff are paid by shift. As agency staff are employed by temporary staffing agencies and not the Trust, the Trust is not their employer. The temporary staffing agency is responsible forthe pay and entitlements of agency staff.
Bank workers: In common with most NHS hospitals, the Trust operates a temporary staffing ‘bank’. NHS bank workers are temporary workers, who are directly engaged by the Trust to work occasional shifts. Many of the hospital’s bank staff also work on permanent contracts at the Trust. National guidance advises that if a bank worker self-isolates, they would not be entitled to statutory sick pay (they would be entitled to contractual sick pay if they also had a permanent contract). Bank staff are paid by shift and receive an enhanced rate to cover sick pay, paid annual leave and other statutory employment entitlements that our employees would otherwise be entitled to. The Trust has offered all bank workers a permanent contract so that they are entitled to sick pay and other statutory employment entitlements.
Staffing levels: The Citizen’s source asserts their concern about staffing levels in our Emergency Department. We closely monitor staffing levels and the assertion that current staffing levels are ‘dangerously low’ is inaccurate and sensationalist. Clinical site managers and senior managers are in the department on a daily basis and are in constant discussion with clinical leads about the safety and effective running of the department. None of these discussions have reflected concerns about ‘dangerously low’ levels of staffing. We would encourage any member of staff with concerns about staffing levels or any other issue, to report it on the Trust’s incident reporting database (Datix) and/ or talk to management teams, who are readily available in the department.
The Observation Unit: The Observation Unit is not a purpose-built infectious disease unit, but nor is a temporary area divided by just a plastic screen as the Citizen source has characterised. It has two sets of doors and has been assessed by our clinical and infection prevention control teams as adequate for hosting patients waiting to be discharged or admitted to a general or isolation ward, depending on their clinical presentation.
Accuracy and reporting: Milton Keynes University Hospital is an open and transparent organisation that welcomes constructive challenge and scrutiny from staff, members of the public and both local and national press. Some recent reports from the press – via undisclosed sources – have been inaccurate and unhelpful, causing distress to our staff, the public and patients. In a time when we are reliant on members of the public following information and guidance, these types of reports are undermining trust in local health services and could cause harm to those who need us the most as a result. We would urge the people of Milton Keynes to continue to use official NHS and government channels with the latest information and guidance on COVID-19 (Coronavirus).