Jeremy Hunt will ‘bring the gig economy into the NHS’ with new health worker app

The health secretary just announced a new NHS app to help staff 'do extra hours at short notice'.

The health secretary just announced a new app-based work system to encourage “flexible working” and overtime in the NHS. Unions have slammed the plans, accusing Jeremy Hunt of introducing further precarity into the health service.

Hunt used a speech this afternoon to Tory conference to announce “new flexible working arrangements”, which “will be offered to all NHS employees during this parliament.”

“Next year”, he said, “we’ll start with 12 trusts piloting a new app-based flexible working offer to their staff.”

Announcing the working arrangements, Hunt said that 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 GMB union was quick to respond, accusing the health secretary of “bringing the gig economy to the NHS”. A statement from the union added:

“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?”

Due to the public sector pay freeze and cuts to teaching bursaries by the Tory government, the NHS is currently short 40,000 nurses and 3,500 midwives.

It’s unclear how the new piece of technology will deal with this widespread and growing staffing crisis.

It was revealed earlier this year that a quarter of public sector workers already do on average an extra 8 hours a week of unpaid overtime. So, how exactly this app will squeeze extra hours from existing NHS who are already massively overworked is also unclear.

“The idea that there is some untapped reserve of labour in the NHS that can be unlocked with an app is pure fantasy”, said Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, adding:

“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”, Azam added.

More follows…


Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.