BREAKING: Minister says pay parity for nurses can now be restored

Pay parity can now be restored for nurses and health staff across Northern Ireland, new Health Minister Robin Swann said today.

Mr Swann made the announcement in the NI Assembly chamber this afternoon and said there is now a plan to add an extra £30m to previous available funding to bring it up to the around £100m needed to ensure pay parity with nurses and health care workers in England.

Robin Swann at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.)

Robin Swann at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. (Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.)

The additional money will come from within existing funding and is not reliant on the new funding package expected from London.

He paid tribute to the staff of Northern Ireland’s crisis-hit health care sector, and said the circumstances which led to the industrial action recently were “hugely regrettable”.

He said he understood the reasons which led to it, with too many patients waiting far too long for treatment and NHS staff coming under increasing pressure and becoming demoralised as they perform “extraordinary work” in difficult circumstances.

The UUP Minister said a move to parity however would not solve the recruitment crisis and safe staffing, with thousands of vacancies within the health service here, but that pay parity may help with retention, with a new implementation plan to be devised towards safe staffing.

“I believe the component parts are now in place to settle the industrial dispute”, he said, adding: “Our nurses can come off the picket line.”

Departmental officials will meet with trade unions tomorrow.