24/11/2010

NHS 'Domestic Dispute' On Way

An urgent call for 200 more domestic staff in the local health service to safeguard and enhance patient safety will be made today by the trade union UNISON.

Despite the challenging economic climate and the efforts by the Stormont Health Minister and the Department of Health to address the issue, UNISON is now urging the NI Executive to look at evidence that shows that Northern Ireland needs almost 200 additional domestics to help deal with cross-infection, tackle MRSA, and fulfil the National Patient Standards for cleanliness.

Speaking ahead of the trade union's 'Domestics in Our NHS' conference Patricia McKeown, Regional Secretary, UNISON, explained why urgent action is required: "Domestics clean hospitals and thereby help to stop infections by killing germs that have the potential to spread and endanger patient safety.

"They are low paid workers who play an invaluable role in the local National Health Service and are fundamental in meeting the National Patient Safety (NPSA) standards," she said.

"Approximately 18 months ago an independent consultancy report advising on the future strategy for the NHS highlighted that there were not enough domestics in NI hospitals and that approximately 150 to 200 more workers were required," the union leader continued, noting that UNISON has been working with a group of domestic workers in the local health service to develop a strategy for this critical service to move forward.

The conference at UNISON Centre in Belfast's York St, aims to identify the strategic issues on developing and resourcing the work of domestics in the local health service.

Speakers will include front line workers and supervisors; leading experts in the field; management and the Department of Health.

Juanita Degoma, a domestic at Knockbracken Healthcare Park, South Belfast, and a member of the UNISON Group of Domestics, added: "There is an urgent requirement for increased integration of service delivery between domestics and nurses.

"The training and opportunities for progression for domestic staff also need to be greatly enhanced.

"Domestic work should be seen as a skill sector and this means consistent and ongoing training. It is simply not good enough for new workers to shadow existing ones."

Also speaking will be Chris Everden, Managing Director of FM Specific Consultants Ltd that has been appointed by the Department of Health to independently review some of the domestic standards in sample healthcare establishments across all the Boards within Northern Ireland.

Chris said: "Domestics are a vital and essential cog in the efficient delivery of modern healthcare services.

"At present their work is not always appreciated and there is evidence to suggest that the distribution of domestic resources is not always equally distributed rationally or fairly across the services within the NHS.

"It is imperative that these anomalies are corrected for both the domestic and the patient."

(BMcC/GK)

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