The RCN Northern Ireland Board has taken the unprecedented step of deciding to ballot RCN members working in the Health and Social Care service in Northern Ireland on industrial action, including strike action, regarding the nurse staffing crisis.
This decision was not taken lightly. Indeed, it is unprecedented in the history of the Royal College of Nursing. However, your elected members of the RCN Northern Ireland Board feel that they have now been left with no option but to ballot RCN members. There are 2,600 unfilled nursing posts across the system, with a similar level of vacancies estimated in nursing homes. Nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland continues to fall behind England, Scotland and Wales, whilst the cost of securing nursing staff via nursing agencies has increased to an all-time high of £32 million in 2017-2018 and, we understand, has increased significantly once again over the last year. The RCN believes there is a direct link between the recruitment and retention of nursing staff, cost-saving measures and low pay.
These factors have a direct impact upon the health and well-being of nursing staff and the people of Northern Ireland. We are told time and again by our members that their greatest concern is the inability to provide the level of care to patients and their families that they want to provide.
The RCN is putting immediate measures in place to ballot members in the coming weeks. We will confirm the starting date for the ballot as soon as the necessary preparations have been completed. In the interim, we will be communicating directly with members to explain the background to the ballot, the underlying issues and the arrangements for conducting the ballot. You will be able to keep in touch with all the latest developments via these web pages and on social media.
When the time comes, I hope that you will use your vote to help deliver a better future for nursing and patient care in Northern Ireland.