Forcing some medical staff to go on strike under new anti-strike laws could end up harming patient care, hospital leaders have said, as ministers claimed their new measures would keep public services running over Christmas.
NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, mental health centers and ambulances, said there was a significant risk it would damage already difficult relationships between staff and employers in a way that could affect patients.
In a submission to the consultation on minimum service levels in hospitals, he said: “Our main concern is that rather than strengthening services as intended, the proposed legislation would worsen relations between employers and staff, and between long-term trusts and local union representatives. -Long-term harm to patient care.”
NHS providers also highlighted the government’s own assessments showing it would be more financially costly than alternatives. His verdict was published as the government set out guidelines for employers on how to issue notices to staff under its new legislation.
He TUC, the unions’ organizing body, said the laws were “designed to escalate disputes, not resolve them.” He said the new guidance, along with a statutory code of practice, “makes already terrible legislation even worse” by seeking to envelop unions and employers in red tape.
The government has already set rules on minimum service levels on rail, ambulance service and border security, which will come into force at the end of the year.
This follows the introduction of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act this year, which faced harsh criticism from unions as unworkable and a threat to the right to strike.
On the railway, minimum staffing levels will be 40% during a strike, while Border Force minimum service levels will require staffing levels of between 70% and 75%.
Under the rules for ambulance services, they will need to ensure that all 999 calls are answered and triaged, and that all calls are answered in life-threatening circumstances or where there is no reasonable alternative clinical assistance at the scene or transport. to hospital.
Ministers are also consulting on rules affecting workers in hospitals, schools, universities and fire services.
This means that when workers vote to strike, they could still be forced to attend work and fired if they do not comply, while unions could face heavy fines if they cannot prove that they have asked certain members to attend work during strike periods.
Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said the measures would only “poison industrial relations and worsen disputes”.
He said: “This draconian legislation represents a blatant attack on the right to strike: it is unworkable, undemocratic and likely breaches international law.”
At the same time, ministers are trying to overturn the ban on using agency workers during strikes, after the high court said in the summer that the practice was illegal.
Kevin Hollinrake, business minister, said: “The ability to strike must be balanced with ensuring people continue to have access to essential services.
“Business freedoms should also not be restricted by onerous regulations that are not justified. “That is why we are seeking opinions on removing unnecessary rules, so that companies can decide for themselves what staff they need.”