The union representing 60,000 of the capital’s nurses and a research team at one of London’s top universities have together called on the Mayor of London to take urgent steps to address the transport needs of nursing staff and low-paid workers who provide vital services during the night.
Researchers from the Urban Innovation and Policy Lab at University College London (UCL) and the Royal College of Nursing London region say that the night-time economy is too heavily geared towards consumers rather than the low-paid workers who keep services running after dark. The bodies say night-time policies should support those who are maintaining London 24/7, but whose work still remains invisible to most.
RCN London and UCL researchers are now calling on the Mayor to introduce a ‘Night-Rider’ fare that would allow night workers to move between buses, tube, train, DLR or tram in a single fare – the idea was first recommended by the Mayor’s Night Time Commission in January this year.
The bodies are also asking for a representative from the nursing profession, as the largest staff grouping in health and care, to be given a seat on the new Late Night Transport Working Group which the Mayor confirmed would be meeting for the first time in 2019.
Despite health workers making up the majority of the 1.6 million Londoners who work at night, there was no place for a representative from the sector on the now disbanded Night Time Commission. RCN London and researchers at UCL say it is now absolutely vital that health care workers are properly represented this time with a seat at the table of the Late Night Transport Working Group.
Research by the Urban Innovation and Policy Lab highlights that 50 per cent of bus trips taken at night are journeys to and from work and that night-time workers are often working on low wages compared to day-time workers, spending a large share of their income on transport.
Those who work unsocial hours, especially during the week, are also left with reduced services, meaning nursing staff after shifts must take long and sometimes expensive journeys using different modes of transport to get to and from work.
RCN London and the research team made the demands of the Mayor as they launch ‘Who makes London run after dark?’, a campaign that will raise awareness of night-workers amongst the public and push policy makers into making the night-time economy more ‘worker-friendly’.
Launching this weekend, campaigners will be distributing specially made leaflets – ‘A night in the life of London’s night-time workers’ – along the Victoria line to members of the public. The leaflets tell the story of nurses who work at night in hospitals and detail their difficulties in getting to and from work during unsocial hours. Throughout the rest of the summer, campaigners will be joining commuters on night tubes and buses across the capital.
As part of the campaign the research team will be producing a series of special films that will recount the experiences of three of the capital’s nurses and a junior doctor who work at night. These will be released later in the autumn as part of the London Design Festival.
The Mayor of London’s ‘24 hour vision’ for London published in 2017 recognised the importance of the welfare of London’s night-workers, and earlier this year, the Night Time Commission, recommended the establishment of a Late Night Transport Working Group to consider extending night services and introducing a ‘Night-Rider’ fare that would allow workers to move between bus, tube, train, DLR or tram in a single fare, in its ‘Think Night’ report.
RCN London say that the cost of living is making life difficult for nursing staff and preventing NHS Trusts from recruiting and retraining staff in the numbers needed to meet demand. The nursing union is also urging Trusts and the Mayor’s office to work together to use surplus NHS land to provide affordable homes for NHS staff.
There are now 9,316 empty nursing posts in London, with the capital’s vacancy rate of 14 per cent the highest in England.
Rumer Gray, a nurse working in a Trauma Centre in South London, said:
“I work shifts in a busy Trauma Centre which can finish at any time between 1am and 8am. During the week, this means I am either travelling home in the early hours when there are no tubes and I have to rely on infrequent night buses, which can take up to 2 hours, or during rush hour when I sometimes struggle to even squeeze myself on board. After a long night caring for patients who are seriously ill, this can be exhausting and demoralising. It feels like we health workers are a key part of making London a 24-hour city, but aren’t really treated as such.”