January 2021 news

Happy New Year all - and welcome to (for most of us) Lockdown 2! Hopefully however there is some light at the end of the tunnel. At the time of writing about 4500 people in NHS Highland (mainly care home residents, care home staff, and other staff members) have been vaccinated. Due to the change to guidance with regards to second doses, there is now a significant amount of vaccine available (around 30,000 doses) in NHS Highland to finish care home resident/staff vaccinations, and start vaccinating other priority groups. This will include the c. 18,000 people aged over 80 in our Board area.
There have been some concerns about this approach - and UNISON has written to the Cabinet Secretary, demanding that second dose dates are honoured as previously planned. We will let you know the outcome of this.
Meantime however, we can expect some significant further communication and action from NHS Highland on this over the next few weeks and months.
Whilst accepting the vaccine is optional, we would encourage members to do so. It is about protecting others, as well as yourself.
Other hot issues at present:
You may be aware that, with the event of the increased restrictions, Scottish Government instruction on this has changed, and those shielding should remain at home (you may be able to work from home). Estimates are that this might affect about 2.5% of NHS staff. If this is you and you have any concerns/questions, please get in touch with the Branch (email inverness.office@unison.co.uk). You should have received a personal letter about this also.
These should be remaining open for children of key workers - which means you! This should mean that your child/children can still attend school, which will enable you to continue to be at work. This is putting it simply however - and there will no doubt be many individual concerns/issues! Again if we can help, please contact the Branch (email inverness.office@unison.co.uk).
Working from Home
Again with the latest restrictions, there is an increased emphasis on the need to work from home, if you are able to do so. This has been fully endorsed by NHS Highland, and we also expect other employers to comply with this. Clearly your individual situation needs to be discussed with your manager. But the principle is, work from home if at all possible to do so. Again, get in touch if we can help.
UNISON listening to members
We appreciate the difficulties around speaking to a local rep at this time and some of the 'well kent' faces within UNISON are not out and about as much as we would hope to be at this time - for obvious reasons! We have decided to offer some Teams meeting sessions for all members to dial in, if you wish, and speak to a Branch Officer with any concerns, or anything you want to tell us. We will be setting up these sessions shortly, and will circulate information widely on dates and how to join and so on. If this is successful we will look at doing this on a more regular basis.
To help with this (and other UNISON communications) please make sure that your email and other contact details are up to date. You can update online at My UNISON (https://www.unison.org.uk/my-unison/) or by emailing inverness.office@unison.co.uk (please include your membership number).
UNISON Branch meetings are also still taking place, and we will update you as we can regarding issues discussed there.
Of course we also have the (virtual) AGMs coming up on Thursday 4 March 2021, and there will be more info out about these nearer the time.
£500 Covid bonus
For those working in the NHS, a £500 bonus (pro rate for those working part time) will be payable in your salary at the end of February. UNISON was lobbying the Scottish Government hard for recognition for the extra work and challenge facing our members and this was the outcome of that. If you are in a situation where a payment like this in a single lump sum may affect other benefits, you can opt to have the payment spread over 3 months. The circular and form to apply if you wish to spread the payments can be found at the following links (I will post on the website too):
We would just like to say a heartfelt thank you for all that you are doing to keep patients and clients safe and well looked after, in these really difficult times. UNISON are there to support you and we would be delighted to hear from you about anything. Best wishes and keep safe!

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