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HCSA denounces 'completely unworkable' minimum service levels at TUC Special Congress

At a TUC Special Congress, HCSA delegates backed calls to protect the right to strike in the face of ‘draconian’ Minimum Service Levels legislation. The historic gathering saw unions unanimously agree to escalate the campaign to repeal the legislation.   

Minimum service levels would require employees to attend work on strike days – and would see striking doctors subject to disciplinary action or dismissal if they don’t comply. 

Congress heard how this legislation gives sweeping powers to government ministers, subjects unions to huge fines and worsens industrial relations. Unions sent a clear message that this legislation is unnecessary and disproportionate.  

Speaking on the key workers’ panel, HCSA junior doctor committee member Matt Church drew attention to the practical implications of the legislation in hospitals: 

“Minimum service levels will be completely unworkable in the NHS. Anyone walking into A&E up and down the country will see unsafe staffing levels. 

“The health service is in dire straits. There is an exodus of staff as it is with one in 10 positions vacant. 

“If MSLs are set in place, would that apply to normal days? I’ve been called at 10pm at night and asked to come into work to cover nightshift because there’s just not enough staff in the hospital. All doctors have been on shifts where there’s gaps. It’s unsafe.  

“The admin involved in minimum service levels would also be nigh-on impossible. Every hospital trust will have to define a service level and speak to their unions. That’s a lot of red tape. It’s a lot of bureaucracy. It just won’t work in real terms.” 

Regulations for Minimum Service Levels in ambulance, rail and border security have now come into force. The consultation for implementation in hospital settings is currently being reviewed by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Read HCSA’s consultation submission