MORE than 700 hospital staff in Oxfordshire, including nurses and doctors, are on controversial zero hours contracts.

UNISON wants to ban the contracts, which give no guarantees of work from week to week.

But a nursing union and patient group have backed them, saying they give flexibility and let hospitals respond to pressures.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic in Oxford and Horton in Banbury, employed 738 staff on zero hours contracts out of a total 11,702 employees in the year to March 31, 2013, data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed.

The figure was a rise on the 685 in 2012, but a fall on the three years before that – 775 in 2011, 755 in 2010 and 795 in 2009.

In 2012/13, staff on the contracts were 37 midwives, 159 junior doctors, 116 staff nurses, 12 specialist nurse practitioners and a chaplain.

An Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust spokesman said: “Zero hours contracts provide flexibility, by allowing the individual to work when they are available, and allow the OUHT to have a pool of experienced staff available to help out at times of increased demand.

“Staff have a choice on whether to accept a zero hours contract. They are offered work and can decide on each occasion if they wish to work.”

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, chairwoman of Oxfordshire watchdog Patient Voice, said: “The important thing is that work is covered.

“Zero hours are like a nursing bank so they have people to call on if they are short in a department.

“Speaking from a patient point of view, it must be good.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “Zero hours contracts can be exploitative, and I am worried when you have got low paid staff who find it difficult to put together a decent week’s wage because they are on zero hours contracts and are at the mercy of their employer’s demands, but some people find that the flexibility suits them.”

Dawn Chambers, Royal College of Nursing operational manager, said: “Bearing in mind nursing work is still predominantly done by women, for a lot of people with caring responsibilities, be that for parents or children, it does suit their lifestyle to be able to work when they can as opposed to being contractually obliged to work.

“This suits some people but it is absolutely not a substitute for robust workforce planning.”

UNISON has called for zero hours contracts to be banned after it emerged one million people nationwide could be on them.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice.

“They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers.

“Not knowing from week to week what money you have coming in to buy food and pay your bills is extremely nerve-wracking.

“Having working hours varied at short notice is stressful. It makes childcare and budgeting hard.”


  • 2012/13 - 738
  • 2011/12 - 685
  • 2010/11 - 775
  • 2009/10 - 755
  • 2008/09 - 795


Job description of those on zero hours contracts ending 31/01/2013

  • Accountant 1
  • Ambulance Care Assistant/Patient Transport Service Driver 1
  • Analyst 1
  • Biomedical Scientist 6
  • Chaplain 1
  • Clerical Worker 48
  • Clinical Psychologist 1
  • Consultant 33
  • Consultant Healthcare Scientist 1
  • Counsellor 1
  • Healthcare Assistant 113
  • Healthcare Scientist 3
  • Helper/Assistant 8
  • Hospital Practitioner 1
  • Junior Doctors internal locums 159
  • Manager 10
  • Medical Laboratory Assistant 3
  • Medical Secretary 8
  • Midwife 37
  • Occupational Therapist 9
  • Officer 31
  • Personal Assistant 1
  • Pharmacist 9
  • Phlebotomist 4
  • Physiotherapist 20
  • Practitioner 1
  • Radiographer – Diagnostic 20
  • Radiographer – Therapeutic  2
  • Receptionist 11
  • Researcher 6
  • Secretary 4
  • Sister/Charge Nurse 4
  • Specialist Nurse Practitioner 12
  • Staff Nurse 116
  • Support Worker 2
  • Technical Instructor 5
  • Technician 45