18/09/2009 - More problems at the Belfast Trust

SOLIDARITY TRADE UNION has again hit out at National Health Service bosses in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.


The Belfast Trust is the largest in Northern Ireland.  It employs over 20,000 staff and is one of the biggest employers in the country. It was formed on 1st April 2007 and was the result of the amalgamation of several smaller trusts.  These included the Belfast City Hospital, The Royal Hospitals, The Mater Hospital, Greenpark Healthcare Trust, North and West Belfast and South and East Belfast HSS Trust.


According to many staff it has been a disaster from day one.


Solidarity General Secretary Patrick Harrington has already hit out at the Belfast Trust. The Trust introduced new rules relating to the authorisation of Travelling and Incidental Expenses. However, many workers were not told about this until the very last minute.  This has led to administrative chaos, uncertainty, and delays in payments of mileage allowances.


In a statement entitled Solidarity Hits Out at NHS Travel Chaos issued on 11 September, he said:-


“The bosses should make sure that this mess is sorted out as quickly as possible.  Some workers might now be significantly out of pocket and that is simply not acceptable”.


Solidarity has now been contacted by a Belfast Trust member of staff. She works at the Royal Victoria Hospital in West Belfast and has told us that there is further chaos in the Trust – again over authorising signatures.


This time it involves signatures on blue Stock Requisition forms. These forms are used to request everything from medical items through to toilet rolls and pens and photocopy paper.


Again a new system was introduced without any consultation or warning. She told us that some staff have signed these requests for years. Now they are not allowed to.

"No one seems to know why this new system has been introduced. It is a complete mess. I’ve been told that some junior staff can authorise stock requests – whilst some senior staff can’t!"


"However, many senior staff have nothing to do with the wards, sections and departments that they are signing for! Really small items like pens, tea bags and toilet rolls have to be authorised by those at the dizzy heights of the Trust. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Chief Executive himself has to sign for all manner of odds and sods!’"


Solidarity has also been told that in some instances only one authorising signature is allowed. Without this signature no-one is allowed to get any items. Our contact pointed out the obvious danger here:-


"What happens if this person is on off on Annual Leave or Sick Leave? Would a ward in the Royal have to close down as it has no medical or domestic items? Just for the lack of a signature?"


 Solidarity General Secretary Patrick Harrington has thanked the whistleblower at the RVH and has encouraged others to come forward to expose bad practice and inefficiencies in the workplace.


Talking specifically about the continuing administrative chaos in the Belfast Trust he said:-


“There must be proper consultation before anything new like this is introduced. As well as being practical, it’s a matter of courtesy. Why didn’t the Belfast Trust bosses introduce a ‘honeymoon’ period and advise staff of these changes?"

"Once again the morale of key NHS workers has taken a hit. "

"However, help may soon be at hand. Solidarity understands that Michael McGimpsey – Health Minister for Northern Ireland – has been told that the Belfast Trust is too big and unwieldy. It’s reported that he may be looking at splitting it into two smaller Trusts. Hopefully this will go some way in sorting out this mess”.