The announcement comes at a time when there are 2,936 unfilled nursing posts across the system, with a similar level of vacancies estimated in nursing homes. Nurses’ pay within the health service in Northern Ireland continues to fall behind England, Scotland and Wales. The real value of nurses’ pay in Northern Ireland has fallen by 15% over the last eight years, whilst the cost of securing nursing staff via nursing agencies has increased to an all-time high of £32 million in 2017-2018. An RCN campaign leaflet, setting out the growing inequalities in pay for Northern Ireland nurses compared with colleagues in the rest of the UK as from 1 April 2019, can be downloaded here.
These factors have a direct impact upon the health and well-being of the people of Northern Ireland and the health and well-being of nursing staff, with long waiting lists and waiting times, difficulties in accessing services, and nurses so over-stretched that they are simply unable to provide the level of care to patients and their families that they want to provide. The RCN believes there is a link between recruitment and retention of nursing staff, cost-saving measures and low pay.
RCN Northern Ireland Director Pat Cullen said: “No nurse in Northern Ireland wishes to take any form of industrial action. However, as a profession, we are no longer prepared to tolerate the risk to patients, nurses and the people of Northern Ireland."
A new RCN campaign leaflet provides further information about the ballot and can be downloaded here.
The RCN's announcement about the ballot and the associated timescale can be viewed here.