Thousands of nurses in Northern Ireland stage a 12 hour strike over pay

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Northen Ireland

nurses are paid less than their counterparts in England and Wales, therefore went on strike today About 9000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) walked out supported by many other healthcare workers.


RCN, a newly qualified registered nurse in Northen Ireland earns £1,875 less than a newly qualified nurse in Scotland and £1,419 less than England and Wales. Much more gaps for specialist nurses. Strike action by nurses can immensely affect patient care and lead to cancellations of operations, appointments and the need for rescheduling causing further delays for planned operations. Nurses’ pay discrepancies may trigger low morale, job dissatisfaction and reduction in staff numbers as some will leave and find other jobs elsewhere. Those left behind will feel overworked as they will need to look after a large number of patients and work extra hours to cover the vacant shifts. Staffing pressures are a reality that need dealing with and resolving in our hospitals. Nurses work long and unsocial hours but they do their best to cope with the challenges. Missing special days like Christmas, birthdays, mother’s and father’s day and others brings sadness to their family and friends as they cannot spend those special moments with them on a regular basis unless they are able to take time off. Young kids grow up knowing that daddy or mommy may not be around for their special moments or activities and this is something the society should really appreciate and give nurses the recognition they deserve. A lot of retired nurses continue to work part time hours post retirement. Is it a choice or need to sustain income? When are they going to spend time with their loved ones? Why not reward nurses with a better pay and improve working conditions? Will that not help with staff retention? It is very rare that nurses agree to take strike action because of the bad effects and inconveniences for patients and their families It is a moment that every nurse wish they would never have to face in their whole nursing career. The dreadful action that you know could cause distress and misery to many. Empathy comes into place. The decision that can lead to your professionalism being questioned and scrutinised by many, especially those directly affected by the strike. Some may see this as a better way of dealing with ongoing unresolved staffing issues between management and staff, but some may question if this was the last resort. There would never be a wrong or right answer, as the strike affects provision of care which all nurses are committed to provide 24 hours round the clock. Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said” This is a moment that every nurse wishes had never come, but, faced with an abject failure to tackle unsafe staffing levels and severe pay inequality with colleagues from across the UK, our members in Northern Ireland are saying enough is enough” “Nurses are taking a stand for their patients and also for their colleagues and it is about time the powers that be, finally sat up and took notice because the crisis in the Health and Social Care cannot be allowed to continue “To every one of our members in Northern Ireland taking this stand, I want you to know that RCN and its entire membership are right behind you” Winter months create a massive challenge to most hospital Accident and Emergency departments and ward areas as many patients including the elderly get admitted with various conditions such as Community Acquired Pneumonia, outbreaks of Flu, Novo Virus and others. Occasionally a need to open Winter Pressure wards arise leading to a requirement for extra staff for those temporary wards. As most hospitals are already experiencing staff shortages, it becomes a crisis which is hard to manage prompting use of Nursing Agencies. Some hospitals rely on Agency staff to run some wards. Is this sustainable, or just a short term solution? What about the cost? Agency nurses choose the hours they want to work, they also choose areas where they want to work as this will will be determined by their skills and experiences. There would be certain departments or wards which will still be short staffed. This is where you find one nurse caring for 15 patients on a shift hence the inability to take breaks. Long term solutions for adequate staffing, better pay packages and general improvement of working conditions should be every employers’ priority for year 2020 and beyond. What are your thoughts? About the author Editorial team

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