Supporting and representing fellow members in the workplace, Lorna Flisher has a challenging but crucial role.
Lorna Flisher is a respiratory physiotherapist at Medway Maritime Hospital, Kent. She’s also a CSP steward, fighting the corner of physiotherapy staff. Lorna qualified as a physiotherapist at London South Bank University and lives near Maidstone.
Why did you become a CSP steward?
I was keen to support and represent members during what is a challenging time in the NHS, and I wanted to improve my knowledge and understanding of NHS policies and procedures. Inspired by the CSP steward before me, I decided to take the opportunity and I put myself forward when she stepped down. That was just over three years ago.
What is a typical week for you as a steward?
There’s no typical week. But I regularly attend policy and procedure meetings with representatives from other unions, human resources and employee relations. We discuss concerns we have with any proposed changes to policies, consult with and represent members and negotiate any modifications to proposals. Examples are policies for dress code, appraisals, pay and sickness.
I also attend the joint staff committee meetings where any concerns we have highlighted, which may be against Agenda for Change or not in the best interest of our members, are addressed in the same fashion. In addition, I support our members, as and when they need it.
What are the rewards of this role?
It gives me the opportunity to learn, develop and support others. It enables me to adapt to different situations and to understand the wider organisation and the challenges we face as a trust.
This is rewarding, not least because when you use these skills to support and solve issues, members are so grateful.
What’s been your biggest achievement to date?
Recently, I was heavily involved in supporting staff during a difficult time at the trust. There had been proposals to adjust contracts that would have been less appealing to new starters, due to the implications for periods of sickness. The trust also suggested changes to sick pay which would have led to current staff being treated unfairly and not in line with the nationally-agreed Agenda for Change.
Pay implications for non-compliance with the flu inoculation was another area that was suggested and we argued for the right to refuse this. As healthcare professionals, we are well aware of the implications of not having the flu jab. But it still remains a choice. The changes were challenged by the CSP (represented by myself and Alice Digman, a newly-appointed CSP rep) and several other unions. Collectively, we got these proposals overturned, which was a great success.
What are the challenges of being a steward?
Meetings with senior managers can be challenging. There’s so much to learn too. For example, about Agenda for Change, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), national terms and conditions, plus local policies and procedures.
The CSP provides great training. At the start, I spent four days in Birmingham at an induction course with other newly-appointed stewards. We worked together to discuss ideas and build skills and knowledge in how to deal with the complex problems we may face. This national training, together with regional training days three or four times a year, is very informative and gives you the confidence that if you don’t know something, you know where you can find it.
Why do physiotherapy staff in the UK need a trade union?
It gives them the opportunity to have a voice in changes that affect them and the organisation they work for.
It means they have a representative who can ensure fair pay, job security and fair treatment throughout their career. It also means they have impartial and strong support should they ever need it.
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