Stewards in OHFT have repeatedly been called on to support members facing capability proceedings as a result of permanent exemption from the Prevention and Management of Violence and Aggression training (soon to be renamed PEACE training). Permanent exemptions are only issued to staff on the grounds of disability or health problem that exposes them to risk of injury if they do the training.
Trust managers have been notifying exempt staff that they have 3 months to find an alternative job (in an area where PMVA is not used) and if they fail to do so then will find themselves out of job.
This is an important issue for all staff working on mental health wards. Any of them could find themselves with a health problem that prevents them doing the PMVA training - even workplace injury caused by being assaulted.
Stewards have raised objections to this harsh treatment of often long serving and experienced staff, and want to see a system introduced that ensures there are no job losses as a result of permanent exemption from PMVA training.
Stewards maintain that the current policy is contradictory and draconian. PMVA exempt staff could lose their permanent jobs, but then be employed via NHSP or agency in the same role on the same ward to cover the chronic staffing shortages. Wards are employing NHSP and agency staff who are not PMVA trained on a daily basis - though incredibly management insist this is not happening!
The current process favoured by management doesn’t account for the roles that non-PMVA trained staff play in situations where restraint is used, e.g. giving medication, calming other patients, attending to physical health monitoring, calling doctors, organising staffing and support etc.
Management has expressed concern about the numbers able to respond to other wards in an emergency, yet the main reason for failure of a ward to send PMVA trained staff to an emergency response is not lack of PMVA trained staff but adequate numbers of staff on the wards.
The trust argument that they are seeking to manage risk ignores the increase in risks to patients of not having enough core permanent staff to provide continuity of care.
Current government guidelines are that physical restraint should be avoided as far as possible and should comprise a very small part of the overall responsibilities of staff. Some managers have indicated that the requirement to have 100% of staff PMVA trained could be lowered to allow some lee-way, however this has been over ruled by the Director of Nursing.
Ironically it was the same Director of Nursing who previously championed shift changes that would have reduced ward complements by 2 staff across all Oxfordshire’s mental health and community hospital wards at a time when staffing levels were lower than they are now.
Unison objects to the dispensing of experienced staff on the basis of inability to perform a small part of their job as it is extremely destructive to the member of staff concerned. It is also wasteful of NHS investment and resources and will deprive patients of access to some of the most experienced staff.
Given that the numbers of staff who find themselves affected it would seem reasonable that the trust shows some commitment to rewarding the loyalty of long serving staff and devotes some resources to ensuring they retain employment in the trust.
Some changes would cost very little, such as having a longer redeployment period, and a more informal approach that doesn’t leave staff feeling terrorised at the prospect of sudden unemployment in 12 weeks time.
For the small number of staff unable to be redeployed Unison would like to see the trust be prepared to spend some money supporting the staff member being retrained to enable them to retain employment, rather than being thrown away like a used tissue.
It is not unreasonable for staff to expect some kind of return for years of good service should they develop a health problem or disability.