A HEALTH board has made a dramatic u-turn to shelve controversial changes to nurse rotas that could have forced staff to work an extra shift each month.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) revealed last week that it would push ahead with plans to double staff break times to an hour per shift in January, in a bid to save more than £500,000. The health board said the new rota would standardise the shift patterns of its 17,000 staff as well as "improve safety and consistency of care".

The plan received huge public backlash since being proposed in August, including two separate 3,000-signature petitions led by Unite Cymru and AM for North Wales Llyr Gruffydd. Concerns were raised that staff would be paid half-an-hour less a day while wards are too understaffed to take the additional break time without impacting patient care standards.

Unite Cymru said the decision to go ahead with the change showed BCUHB "have absolutely no intention of engaging in any meaningful consultation process" and that nurses were considering strike action.

However on Wednesday the health board, which has been in special measures since 2014, decided not to progress the changes following further discussions with Unite Cymru, the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) and Unison.

Gary Doherty, chief executive of BCUHB, said: “We welcome the joint communication from Unison, RCN and Unite [Cymru]. We are absolutely committed to working together with our Trades Union partners.

“While we focus on our partnership working and how to move forward together, we will not progress the proposed changes.”

Mr Doherty added that an extraordinary general meeting between BCUHB’s Local Partnership Board on Friday "will be dedicated to this matter”.

Unite Cymru’s regional secretary Peter Hughes said the decision reversal is a "victory" for its campaign that "will come as a huge relief to the thousands of nurses and health professionals who would have been affected".

"We welcome the fact that Betsi Cadwaladr has listened to our concerns and decided to think again,” he said. “We also welcome their commitment to work constructively alongside all trade unions representing BCUHB staff.

"We expect future consultations with us to be far more meaningful than has been the case over this divisive issue. What we certainly will not accept is any further attempt to bring forward changes to staff rosters under another guise.”

Mr Hughes added that BCUHB must “rebuild the confidence of staff and the general public” and ensure that its workforce “feels truly valued and listened to”.