Fighting for patients

We spoke to nursing support workers who joined the picket lines in Northern Ireland to demand safe staffing and fair pay 

“We had to take drastic measures to address unsafe staffing levels and deliver pay parity with colleagues elsewhere in the UK. Nursing staff here are the lowest paid in the UK.

"It was cold, wet and windy out there, but we were determined. I was proud to stand on those picket lines. It didn’t matter what role we held, we were all RCN members fighting for safe staffing and fair pay.

"The support we had from the public was both amazing and humbling. As a result of the pressure we put on politicians, the Northern Ireland Assembly has reconvened after a three-year absence.”

Dennis Greer, senior nursing assistant and assistant practitioner

“I stood on the picket line in Belfast for the three days that we took strike action. There was a big crowd of us there and a great atmosphere, with nothing but positive support from the public. We had to do this as it was the only way left to make people realise we’re only asking for what we’re entitled to.

"We had to show politicians how serious we were, but no patients were put in any danger. I personally won’t gain that much from a pay parity agreement as I’m at the top of my band, but I’d do it again if politicians don’t keep their promises this time.”

June Crothers, health care worker

“It was so important to me to add my voice and show my support. Most of us went into health care work to make a positive difference but the constant strain on staff is taking its toll. Working on the wards, I’ve seen and experienced first-hand the pressures everyone is under.

"It’s time to start looking after nurses and health care assistants, and to appreciate the sacrifices being made to care for others. Patients need, and deserve, the right amount of staff, valued and functioning well as a team to receive the best possible care. I hope the future brings a happier workplace for all.”

Lynsey McLaughlin, health care assistant and student nurse

RCN members in Northern Ireland have now voted to accept proposals to restore pay parity with the NHS in England and implement a series of measures to improve safe staffing for nurses working within Health and Social Care (HSC) services. Find out more.

Read about Northern Ireland's safe and effective care campaign.

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