Nurses in Northern Ireland have begun the second day of strike action over unsafe staffing levels.
On the first day of strike action, 18 December 2019, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members working within Health and Social Care services in Northern Ireland took strike action for the first time in the College’s 103-year history.
‘For the second time in a matter of weeks we find ourselves in a position where our members have been left with no choice but to take strike action. The Department of Health and employers have known about these dates since November of last year. When 92% of RCN members balloted said they would take strike action to protect patients last year, it should have led health service leaders into finding a solution, but it hasn’t. This is very disappointing,’ said Pat Cullen, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.
‘Nurses could not have been clearer over the past few months in relation to our demands for safe staffing and restoring pay parity with the rest of the UK and we have been talking to the Department of Health for months about these issues.’
According to the RCN, there are almost 2800 vacant nursing posts and nurse pay has fallen by 15% in real terms in recent years, and nurses in Northern Ireland are the lowest paid in the UK.
‘There are nearly 2800 nursing posts unfilled in Northern Ireland,’ added Ms Cullen. ‘This means that for every eight nurses working here, one is missing. This situation has been made worse by the fact that since 2014 nurses in Northern Ireland have been paid less than in England, Scotland and Wales, making it even more difficult to recruit new nursing staff and retain the nurses we already have.’