I've not been on libcom for a while since I started working full-time (and sleeping part time, and doing little else), and I've been in my job for exactly two months now. I've started working for the NHS at a "challenging" time, and it's an even more "challenging" time for mental health services and Occupational Therapy specifically.
The trust I work for has massive deficits, and they're trying desperately to save money through the hilariously titled Mental Health Improvement Project (a very odd way of naming the process that aims to "improve" service provision by cutting back as many front-line staff and services as possible whilst still making out like we're trying to help people). I get the idea that the overall picture is similar across the NHS and public services in general right now - freezing posts, deleting posts and redeploying people, downgrading existing posts to lower payscales, making people take on extra duties etc. My department is undergoing some major "improvements" right now, and we're coming towards the end of our consultation process.
We're a tiny department, with six qualified occupational therapists and five unqualified activity workers - I'm an unqualified activity worker. At the moment, I work on an acute ward and am not in the nursing numbers, which means I'm not responsible for any patients and can spend my entire day planning and facilitating activities for the patients, many of whom cannot leave the ward and are likely to get bored and frustrated. Now, in an effort to save a lot of money, we're having two of our qualified posts cut entirely, and the unqualified activity workers (me) will have to go into the nursing shift and take on four patients (which means one less member of staff on the ward per shift, and thus less people to pay).
So, we're pissed off that we're going to have to take on a whole new job (having allocated patients means we have to attend to them specifically, we're going to have to do control and restraint when people kick off, and lots of other stuff) and still be expected to run activities. As it is, we can spend more face-to-face time with the patients than any of the nurses, and we get to have an infomal friendly relationship cos we're not the ones giving them medication or restraining them, and we're going to loose that relationship. And the patients are going to loose having someone around all day who's sole purpose is to make them feel at ease and entertain them.
Our managers, as you may expect, are being fucking wet and saying it's up to us to make sure we get enough time to run groups, and they've botched the consultation process - they told us about the consultation meeting the day before it happened so we had no time to meet independently before we went in there, and - surprise surprise - they also didn't give Unison enough notice to send a rep along to our meeting. They were of course very apologetic about this, but they were under so much pressure, blah fucking blah...
Today, us five activity workers got together to draft our response to the consultation, and spent about 2 hours getting very angry and irate, which was fun. I was really pleased at how militant the others were about it, and we've come up with a whole list of points that we want to be addressed. We're going to try and get the hospital user's forum to respond too, cos they like us (we're the good guys, see). But it also feels kind of hopeless, there's no way they're going to back down cos they'll save £15k for each of us when we go into the numbers but hopefully we'll manage to get some concessions (i.e. time off each week to go shopping for the stuff we need to use on the ward, having less allocated patients etc). So yeah we're putting up a fight to try and get some scraps thrown at us, ah well.
The thing is it feels like we can't hope for anything more - there's only five of us, two of whom have been unionised since the start, and me who really is goign to send that form to Unison tomorrow, honest... so I doubt we can hope for much from them. The qualified staff don't want to kick up too much of a fuss because they're having competative interviews and want to look responsible. It's shit, and none of us want to do it, and we've all agreed that we're gonna help each other out as much as possible when the change happens which is cool cos we work pretty much in isolation now. I'm still on probation and will be for the next four months, as is one of the others, so we kind of feel like we just have to grin and bear it. Ah well.
That's my news anyway.