Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that 12 NHS Trusts will use an app to help nurses work flexibly.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Hunt said: “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.
“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.”
Hunt mentioned that nurses need better taking care of with their own needs if “we’re to get the best out of them”.
There are no details available about the app and when Wired contacted NHS England’s media team, they had no idea that the app existed.
Hunt’s announcement was quickly met with criticism by the worker’s union GMB, who claimed the unveiling of the app “will bring the gig economy to the NHS”.
Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for Public Services, said: “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.
“Public sector workers are already putting in £11 billion 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. Having our overworked, underpaid NHS staff being told via an app they are not needed at the last minute is a terrible idea and the start of a slippery slope.
“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. 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 announcement of the app came was made alongside news that 5,000 new training places for nurses will be funded by the government. Responding to the announcement, Nuffield Trust chief executive, Nigel Edwards, said: “The NHS is facing a double whammy of the consequences of years of dire workforce planning and the potential loss of much-needed staff due to Brexit. Investing now to train the nurses of the future is not only sensible, it is essential.
“The real test for this proposal will come in how readily these new places are taken up. With the abolition of nursing bursaries, we have to hope that potential nurses continue to be attracted to the profession. But, as the RCN showed last week, nurses are increasingly stressed and demoralised by the very shortages this policy is intending to tackle.
“Tackling staff shortages must go hand in hand with efforts to improve low morale across the health service.”