RCN members in Northern Ireland have 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.
A meeting of the RCN Northern Ireland Board was held today (Monday 24 February) and, following this, the RCN and other health unions informed the Minister for Health and his department of their acceptance of the proposals.
Pat Cullen, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, said: “The past few months have been among the most turbulent and pressurised that nurses have ever seen. It was unprecedented, not just in Northern Ireland, but for RCN members anywhere to go on strike. Nurses had come to the conclusion that in order to protect patients, they had no choice.
“This was neither an easy decision, nor one that was taken lightly. As I stood on picket lines with my colleagues, we felt the weight of the health service and the people of Northern Ireland on our shoulders, but we knew it was the right thing to do – for patients.
“While RCN members have spoken clearly in accepting this offer, we are also clear that we need to see all of the measures that have been agreed by Health Minister Robin Swann implemented in full. Safe staffing was the central part of our dispute and for the sake of those who use the service, and those who work in it, we must get this right.
“We recognise that it may take some time to resolve this crisis but the sooner we begin, the sooner this will happen, and we cannot afford to wait one more day. The minister has shown his full commitment in endorsing these proposals and we now need to see them delivered. In particular, work must start as a matter of urgency on safe nurse staffing legislation which will ensure that we never find ourselves in this position again. Scotland and Wales have already implemented legislation and Northern Ireland needs to be next.”
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair added: “I'm extremely proud of the way nurses in Northern Ireland stood up for their patients and the nursing profession. Today’s endorsement of this deal by members in Northern Ireland is further proof that those who fought hard in December and January were speaking for the majority.
“A great deal of hard work will now be needed by all sides to make the new proposals a reality, and we will be holding health service leaders to account to ensure that the pledges on staffing levels are kept.
“Taking industrial action and going on strike was an extremely difficult decision for nurses, but shows that when we stand together, we can bring about real change for the better.”