Commenting in response to today’s publication of a strategic framework for rebuilding HSC services, Pat Cullen, Director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Northern Ireland said:
“Nurses welcome the publication of plans to take forward how we return to normal services in health care. There cannot, however, be meaningful rebuilding and transformation without full engagement with health care staff and openness and transparency during every step taken. This includes robust scrutiny and accountability in relation to decisions that are made.
“We welcome the emphasis from the Minister, speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly, about the need to support staff. As he said today, nursing staff, only a few months ago, were forced to stand on picket lines to demand safe staffing and fair pay. Nurses must be represented fully, and on an equal footing with other professions, at any decision-making table.
“Health care services were under severe pressure before this pandemic began, but thanks to the hard work and determination of staff we have now reached a stage where we have had three consecutive days with no deaths from COVID-19. As we come out of this pandemic, we need to ensure that staff are rewarded and valued properly moving forward.
“We also need to ensure that the issues that were on the table, such as the promise of legislation for safe nurse staffing are not forgotten about. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we cannot compromise on the need to ensure we have the right number of nurses and other health care staff. It is impossible to deliver services without them.
“This situation has highlighted the absolute need to ensure that we use this opportunity for change that will be meaningful for the patients who use the service as well as those work within it. There is no doubt that we will be facing challenging times ahead. Difficult decisions will need to be made and we will be looking in detail at the plans proposed by the Department of Health and our health care trusts.”