Support for night time health workers

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Hospitals run round the clock, and so do hospital workers. Research by the Royal College of Nursing and University College London has underlined how essential these staff are to keep London operating at night, but also the stresses their shift patterns put on them. As London becomes even more a 24-hour city, the demands on these workers will only increase. What are you doing to build on the work of the Night Time Commission to help night staff in the health sector?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Deputy Chairman. A third of London’s workforce, 1.6 million, work at night and 181,000 of these work in the health sector. Whether it is frontline paramedics, GPs running evening surgeries or the dedicated staff who run hospitals around the clock, they are essential to the wellbeing of our city and I pay tribute to them as they go above and beyond the call of duty.

The London Night Time Commission recognises the importance of supporting all night‑time workers. As it has recommended, I am setting up a late‑night transport working group to ensure the transport needs of night workers are met. London does have a comprehensive night bus service with 135 routes carrying 35 million passengers each year and we estimate that half of them are workers. The night tube has enabled millions of new weekend journeys at night and contributed to our economy. Off‑peak fares make transport affordable for those working at night but there is more that we can do.

I regularly meet NHS workers and last month my Night Czar [Amy Lamé] visited the accident and emergency department at Lewisham Hospital during one of her regular night surgeries, and a new late‑night transport working group will look into some of the challenges that are raised with her.

We have published guidance to help boroughs to create night‑time strategies supporting my new London Plan and we are researching the benefits of later opening hours and commissioning a night‑time enterprise pilot to see how we can boost London’s high street employees, particularly in the health sector. We must take the lead in ensuring the wellbeing of workers, including those who work at night. My Women’s Night Safety Charter is helping to ensure London is a city where women feel confident travelling and working at night and over 100 organisations have signed up to this.

Finally, my Good Work Standard and London Healthy Workplace Award, helping organisations provide safe workplaces. They are calling employers to ensure night workers have the same support and welfare services as daytime workers.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor, for that. As you said, there are 1.6 million night-time workers, of which 100,000 are from the health and social sector. They are the second-largest group, but despite this, they are not represented on the Night Time Commission. I wonder if you would give some thought to whether they could be involved in the Night Time Commission.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I agree with that. The work of the Night Time Commission was the publication of a report. What we are going to do is a working group in relation to implementing the recommendations. It will involve workers from the healthcare system. It is very important.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Great, thank you. The other thing of course, as we know, awkward commutes on reduced night-time services are a feature for nightshift workers. In 2017 you announced a review of the bus services to London hospitals and the Night Tube and so at least that has helped to some extent and thank you for that, but what further plans do you have to review the transport system so that night-time workers, particularly those in hospitals, can get to their workplaces easily?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

This is really important. One of the things we are doing is that the Late Night Transport Working Group that TfL has will look into this sort of issue. Separately, when it comes to expanding bus services in outer London, we will particularly look at routes that go towards hospitals, which are busy hubs, from town centres to hospitals or from other places to hospitals, which will help workers. That is one example of something used 24 hours a day that needs better public transport. I am encouraged by the changes that are coming out in London. One of the groups that will benefit are hospitals and primary care centres as well.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. Secondly, of course we normally associate the night time with rest and recreation, but of course these healthcare workers get none of these two things. What can you do to make the environment around hospitals more pleasant and safe so that night-time workers can get some recreation, some fun?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

You raise a really important point. There are two things people associate with the night-time economy. One is antisocial behaviour, two is leisure. There is a third, it is work, people work in the night-time economy, and it is really important. The draft London Plan has a number of policies to support the quality of life you talked about around the public realm, around safety, security and resilience to the emergencies, around supporting the night-time economy, and that includes the workers you are referring to, so there are various policies. I can send you a letter setting them out, that is HC6D7D10, which specifically addresses the new draft London Plan, the fact that we are a global 24-hour city and we have got to make sure we address issues like rest and recreation that you referred to for those that work in the night-time economy.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Thank you very much. Of course the local universities and University College London (UCL) have done a lot of research around this, the low-paid NHS staff who work at night and struggle to afford places to live nearby, so what more can we do to address the cost of living pressures on these night‑time workers, particularly in the healthcare sector?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

One example of the opposite of business as usual is the scheme we did with St Ann’s Hospital. We have a scheme which has 800 homes, at least half of which are genuinely affordable, where NHS workers get first dibs, the complete opposite of business as usual. We have more schemes like this. The London Estates Board is working with the NHS on surplus public land. I have set out six tests in relation to surplus NHS land. What we do not want is clinical needs being sacrificed to make a quick buck from trusts. So the six tests are there and we are going to make sure we work with the trusts to make sure they have a revenue stream to improve clinical needs, but we have housing that is affordable to Londoners. That means genuinely affordable, rather than dodgy demolition. There will be other schemes coming onstream. Social housing, London Living Rent and shared ownership are just some examples of the sorts of house that NHS workers desperately need.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Great. Thank you, Mr Mayor, for that.