Mental health workers strike as ‘last resort’ against cuts

Sheffield mental health workers are going on strike in the new year to protest spending cuts that have left them struggling to help patients.

Strike action in January was overwhelmingly voted for by 200 mental health nurses, social workers and therapists part of the union UNISON.

This was in response to Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust (SHSC) making cuts to mental health services.

Sue Highton, Branch Secretary for UNISON who works alongside SHSC, said These cuts have left staff feeling overworked and unable to pick up referrals.

She said: “Staff can’t meet the needs of service users and everyone is at the end of the tether. The staff want a service that is fit for purpose and this is the last resort.”

“Staff and service users are at risk. It isn’t about pay, its about delivering a service.”

Ms Highton said employees often have to take time off for work-related stress and it has been difficult for them to recruit new workers.

The trust reorganised mental health services two years ago. Workers have since complained about finding it harder to support patients, saying it now takes months for people to get assessments where it used to take a couple of weeks.

Nurses feel it’s in breach of their code of conduct. This is not what they became nurses for.

Sue Highton

Staff registered a dispute with SHSC in Februrary but said nothing came of it.

Charlie Carruth, UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside regional organiser, said: “This service isn’t functioning. It’s got to change radically and money needs to be pumped into it.

“These organisation haven’t got the money to support the people who need it and it is solely this government’s fault. The patients are not getting the service they deserve.”

The strike is scheduled for the new year due to mental health workers being reluctant to leave patients at Christmas time.

“Nurses feel it’s in breach of their code of conduct. This is not what they became nurses for,” said Ms Highton.

SHSC have been reached out to for comment.