A union has today warned that a new app being brought to the NHS could risk bringing the so-called 'gig economy' to the health service.
The National Health Executive reported that, alongside a number of other new measures to address the many challenges faced by the NHS, Jeremy Hunt today announced plans for a new workforce app that the GMB has described as being like “Uber for the NHS.”
Speaking to delegates at the Conservative Party conference, Hunt announced plans to introduce the app-based work system to 12 trusts across England to allow the workforce to be more agile.
“They [nurses] need to be able to work flexibly, do extra hours at short notice, get paid more quickly when they do and make their own choices on pension contributions,” the health secretary said. “So today I’m also announcing that new flexible working arrangements will be offered to all NHS employees during this parliament.
“And we’ll start next year with 12 trusts piloting a new app-based flexible working offer to their staff.”
In response, the union, which has recently been campaigning for the public sector pay cap to be lifted for NHS workers, argued that the app will cause more problems for the NHS workforce.
“As if NHS staff don’t have enough on their plate with real terms pay cuts, stress on the job and ever-increasing workloads – now Jeremy Hunt wants to force them into the gig economy as well,” said Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for public services.
“Public sector workers are already putting in £11bn worth of unpaid overtime every year and many of our NHS members already take on bank work to make ends meet. The idea that there is some untapped reserve of labour in the NHS that can be unlocked with an app is pure fantasy.”
Azam also claimed it was a “terrible idea” to have overworked, underpaid workers are told via an app that they were not needed for a shift.
“You only have to look at this model in health and social care where zero-hours contracts and 15-minute slots to look after the elderly have left the system on the brink of collapse,” she continued.
“Instead of wasting money creating Uber for the NHS, why doesn’t the health secretary give all NHS staff the pay rise they desperately need?”
The Department of Health was contacted by the National Health Executive but chose not to comment.