Nurses to strike for a third time over pay and conditions

Nurses from the Royal College of Nursing union strike at Altnagelvin Hospital on Wednesday morning. DER5119GS - 007
Nurses from the Royal College of Nursing union strike at Altnagelvin Hospital on Wednesday morning. DER5119GS - 007

Nurses are to strike for the third time in a month to demand urgent measures to address ‘unsafe’ staffing levels and deliver pay parity.

The Western Trust has said that some disruption is anticipated today as a result of the strike action.

375 outpatient appointments have been postponed and all morning out-patient clinics have been cancelled. Afternoon clinics will run from 2pm.

A total of 57 inpatient procedure cases have been cancelled across the Trust area and a number of treatment rooms will be closed at GP surgeries.

Theses include Strabane, Great James Street, Claudy, Dungiven and Waterside treatment rooms.

Four school vaccination clinics have also been postponed and provisionally rescheduled for later this month.

Last month, RCN members took strike action for the first time in the College’s 103-year history. The organisation says there are almost 2,800 vacant nursing posts and nurse pay has fallen by 15% in real terms in recent years.

Earlier this week nurses also took to the picket lines and the Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, Pat Cullen, said that members were ‘left with no choice but to take strike action’.

“There are nearly 2800 nursing posts unfilled in Northern Ireland. This means that for every eight nurses working here, one is missing. This situation has been made worse by the fact that since 2014 nurses in Northern Ireland have been paid less than in England, Scotland and Wales, making it even more difficult to recruit new nursing staff and retain the nurses we already have.

“Last week we had over 400 people waiting in our emergency departments, some for over 48 hours. In one of our main hospitals 96 patients were waiting on trolleys and critically ill patients, with the most serious illnesses, were not being able to access intensive care units. These are the very reasons why action needs to be taken urgently and why we simply cannot afford to keep waiting.”

She said that in response to this, emergency departments and intensive care units have been exempted from strike action.

“It is clear that people in Northern Ireland are not getting the care and treatment they need.

“Our members in Northern Ireland are making clear to those in power that they and their patients will not be ignored. We all wish to see a rapid solution to this crisis. However, this will not be secured by trying to blame nurses for the consequences of the decisions made by those in power.”

Members of the Unison union working within the Western Health and Social Care Trust will also be on strike today between 10am and 2pm.