Members of the RCN in Northern Ireland will be balloted on industrial action, in response to the nursing staffing crisis.
Currently, there are 2600 unfilled nursing posts across the region, with a similar level of vacancies estimated in nursing homes. According to the RCN, this has a direct impact upon the health and wellbeing of the people of Northern Ireland and the health and wellbeing of nursing staff. The organisation cites long waiting lists and waiting times, difficulties in accessing services, and nurses so over-stretched that they are unable to provide the level of care to patients and their families that they want to provide.
‘The decision taken today is unprecedented in the history of the RCN,’ said Fiona Devlin, Chair of the RCN Northern Ireland Board. ‘We have been left with no option but to ballot RCN members in Northern Ireland as a result of the total inaction to address the staffing crisis facing health care in Northern Ireland. This situation is compounded by nurses in Northern Ireland being the lowest paid across the UK.’
Additionally, nurses pay within the health service in Northern Ireland has fallen behind England, Scotland and Wales. According to the RCN, the real value of nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland has fallen by 15% over the last eight years. Meanwhile the cost of securing nursing staff via nursing agencies has increased to an all-time high of £32 million in 2017-2018.
‘No nurse in Northern Ireland wishes to take any form of industrial action. However, as a profession, we are no longer prepared to tolerate the risk to patients, nurses and the people of Northern Ireland’ said RCN Northern Ireland Director Pat Cullen.
‘The RCN is putting immediate measures in place to make preparations to ballot members in the coming weeks.’