Commenting on the developments, Pat Cullen, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said: “After three years of political stalemate and the deepening crisis within our health services, nurses in Northern Ireland hope that today will bring a new dawn in health care in Northern Ireland.
“Nurses in Northern Ireland have been fighting for months to get someone, somewhere to listen and act upon the serious issues facing patients and health care staff which have continued to become worse and worse.
“This is a momentous day, not just for the people of Northern Ireland, but for nursing staff who have firmly put health at the top of the political agenda. There is no doubt that the courage and determination shown by nurses, alongside the unwavering support of patients and the public, has been instrumental in bringing us to where we are today.
“We welcome Robin Swann MLA as our new Health Minister and call for an immediate meeting to begin the process of resolving our dispute about pay parity and safe staffing.
“Nurses could not have made it clearer that they do not want to be standing on picket lines losing yet more pay. They want to get back on the wards and in the community, treating and caring for patients like they should be. We require strong political leadership and if we are able to get a formal assurance from our new Health Minister that our requirements will be met, we may be in a position to suspend further industrial action.
“The New Decade, New Approach deal provides an opportunity to take forward many issues that need to be urgently addressed and is a basis upon which to take further steps to ensure that our health service becomes truly fit for purpose. This will not happen overnight but must begin urgently.
“We ended the last decade in despair but I hope we can now take forward this decade with optimism and put a plan in place to make our health service something we can be proud of.”
Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary added: “This tremendous breakthrough would never have happened without nurses taking such a clear stand for their patients.
“The public knew our nurses were striking as a last resort and for the sake of safer care - their support for us never wavered and we are extremely grateful.
“When nurses come together to advocate for their patients, we’re a force to be reckoned with.”