More than a million workers in the UK each year must forgo time with their families over the holiday season because of work. In our series on working over Christmas, UNITElive pays tribute to members who, thanks to their sacrifices, make our holidays safe for the rest of us to enjoy.
In Part 1 of our series, we speak to Ian Evans, a biomedical scientist who does blood tests among other duties.
Ian has been working for the NHS since 1996 and typically works over Christmas.
“We provide a 24/7 service and this of course includes the holidays,” he explains. “It can be a stressful job. The hours are long and when we work overnight there’s a lot of lone working.
“On a typical day the lab is manned by about 300 people but overnight it’s down to a skeleton crew of three or so people so you can’t take breaks – there’s no time to wind down.”
Biomedical scientists play a critical role – in fact, the health service would not be able to function without them, as 80 per cent of health care decisions are based on information gleaned from lab tests.
This can add to the stress of the job, Ian explains.
“There’s an enormous sense of responsibility,” he says. But this is also what makes the job rewarding.
“It’s a very mentally stimulating job and you know what you’re doing makes a real difference,” Ian notes. “When patients are given a physical exam they may by all appearances seem well on the outside but there may be something terribly wrong on the inside. This is what we do essentially – we identify what people can’t see.”
Ian has grown children and says he doesn’t really celebrate Christmas per se and so finds it easier than many of his colleagues to work over the holiday period.
‘Not ideal for families’
“The situation isn’t ideal for many families whose family members have to work over Christmas. No one wants be away from their family and friends, especially during the holidays, but there’s a real sense of duty we have to patients.”
Over Christmas, the work he does is largely the same as on other days but he says it’s often quieter. However, accidents and emergencies happen throughout the year – they don’t stop for Christmas – so that’s when the pressure ramps up.
“You’ll have staff who are literally in the middle of their Christmas dinner and will drop everything if there’s an emergency to come in,” Ian explains.
He believes it’s important for those who do enjoy time with their families during the holiday season to recognise the hard work of the just over one million people who must work over Christmas.
“Whether its workers in the public or private sector, they make huge sacrifices to ensure other people can enjoy Christmas at home safely. Sometimes it’s not until people actually need to use a service at Christmas that they realise just how dedicated these workers are – in this instances they are truly grateful.
“But even if you don’t have an emergency or need to use a service over Christmas, I think it’s important we reflect and give thanks to each and every one of these workers.”
Ian sends a message of thanks and solidarity to all Unite members.