Alongside the ongoing issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many other important areas that are the focus of attention for the RCN in Northern Ireland. Top of the agenda, as ever, are safe staffing and pay. Before the pandemic, Minister for Health Robin Swann published a safe staffing framework, which was endorsed by RCN members in a consultative ballot. This framework includes increases in the number of pre-registration nursing places over the next three years, renewed investment in post-registration nursing education and, perhaps most importantly, a commitment to legislating for safe nurse staffing in Northern Ireland, following the examples set in Wales and Scotland. Holding the Department of Health to account for delivering these commitments is now a key priority for the RCN. In the interests of nursing staff and the people we are here to serve, we must ensure that we have the right numbers of nurses in the right areas to provide the level of care that the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to expect and that nurses want to deliver.
The RCN and other health trade unions have recently called upon the UK government to bring forward discussions on the next pay round. We believe that the government should commit now to discussions and a meaningful early pay rise. The pandemic has shone a light on the essential contribution made by nursing staff, and the level of skill and commitment they have displayed. The public - and RCN members - will expect the government to be mindful of this when the next pay settlement is considered.
With the process of rebuilding health and social care now underway, there is an urgent need to re-focus on transforming services through co-design and co-production with staff and service users. The RCN Northern Ireland Board has a key role to play in ensuring that nursing is at the very heart of this process and that nursing staff can directly influence the key decisions that need to be made.
The nomination period closes on Friday 4 September 2020. You can find out further information about the Board elections, including the nomination form, via the RCN website. I hope you will consider standing and also that you will encourage your RCN member colleagues to do the same.