Find out more about the main issues RCN Northern Ireland is focusing on as part of our pay campaign activity
The RCN in Northern Ireland is now running a campaign to highlight and close the gap between nurses’ pay here and that in the rest of the UK.
A newly-qualified band 5 staff nurse in Northern Ireland is now paid £285 less than a counterpart in England each year and £531 per year less than in Scotland. An experienced band 5 staff nurse is now paid £271 less than a counterpart in England each year and £572 less than in Scotland.
A typical health care assistant in Northern Ireland is now paid £382 less than a counterpart in England each year and £1127 less than in Scotland. A specialist nurse in Northern Ireland is now paid £413 per annum less than a counterpart in England and £831 less than in Scotland.
We have a severe shortage of nursing staff in Northern Ireland, as the latest figures from the Department of Health illustrate, with 1,262 nursing vacancies in the HSC and around the same number estimated in the independent sector. Despite the recent welcome increase in pre-registration student nurse places, we are not training enough nurses and increasing numbers are going elsewhere to find employment with better terms and conditions. The Department of Health estimates that some 21% of newly-qualified nurses here plan to leave Northern Ireland to work elsewhere. The impact of this upon patient care in Northern Ireland is devastating.
The RCN aims to ensure that, as soon as the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly are re-established, the need to close the gap with the rest of the UK in nurses’ pay is prioritised by our local politicians.
The negative impact of this treatment upon health and social care in Northern Ireland is readily apparent, with the high levels of vacancies across the HSC and the independent (nursing home) sector, and demand for nursing staff outstripping the supply. We have a significant over-reliance on the supply of nurses on an ad hoc basis through the nurse bank and nursing agencies. There are alarmingly high sickness absence rates amongst nursing staff that are largely attributable to stress and mental ill health.
Nurses in Northern Ireland are more likely than nurses in England, Scotland or Wales to cite increases in workload, unfilled vacancies and recruitment freezes in their workplace. We need to invest in safe staffing across all areas of nursing practice. Mortality rates increase by up to 46% in hospitals with a 1:8 nurse-patient ratio compared with a 1:4 nurse-patient ratio. Every patient added to a nurse’s workload is associated with a 7% increase in deaths after general surgery. Higher patient satisfaction is recorded in hospitals with fewer patient per nurse workload and good nursing work environments.
We need proper workforce planning that is based on health needs and strategic priorities, not financial considerations. Three-quarters of all nurses in Northern Ireland currently work beyond their contracted hours each month because they are concerned about patient care. More than 50% of those that do so work unpaid for these extra hours. Nurses in Northern Ireland (84%) are more likely to work unsocial hours than nurses in Wales (79%), England (78%) or Scotland (77%). Nurses in Northern Ireland (68%) are less likely to be paid enhanced rates for working unsocial hours than those in Scotland (66%) and England (53%). Nurses in Northern Ireland are more likely to work additional hours than nurses in England, Scotland or Wales and are less likely than nurses in any country except Wales to be paid for these additional hours.
We need to make sure that health and social care transformation is delivered and this requires investment in community nurses such as district nurses, school nurses, and health visitors. However, we learned recently of significant cuts in the Northern Ireland training budget for these areas of practice.
The RCN is committed to securing fair pay for Northern Ireland nurses. We will continue to keep you informed of how the pay campaign is progressing.