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Deal done: nurses vote to end dispute about pay and safe staffing

NHS staff in Northern Ireland secure promises on pay parity and nurse numbers
RCN members on a picket line in Belfast

NHS staff in Northern Ireland secure promises on pay parity and nurse numbers

Nurses and other NHS staff in Northern Ireland have voted to accept proposals to restore pay parity and measures to improve safe staffing.

The move by members of the RCN, Unison and Royal College of Midwives brings to a close months of industrial action, including unprecedented strike action by the RCN.

NHS pay in Northern Ireland has stagnated

Members voted to accept the framework of pay parity with colleagues in England and Wales, and a series of measures to improve safe staffing.

Nurses had come to the conclusion that in order to protect patients, they had no choice but to go on strike

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NHS staff in Northern Ireland secure promises on pay parity and nurse numbers


RCN members on a picket in Belfast during their winter strike action. RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen is centre, in green Picture PA

Nurses and other NHS staff in Northern Ireland have voted to accept proposals to restore pay parity and measures to improve safe staffing. 

The move by members of the RCN, Unison and Royal College of Midwives brings to a close months of industrial action, including unprecedented strike action by the RCN.

NHS pay in Northern Ireland has stagnated

Members voted to accept the framework of pay parity with colleagues in England and Wales, and a series of measures to improve safe staffing.

‘Nurses had come to the conclusion that in order to protect patients, they had no choice but to go on strike’

Pat Cullen, director, RCN Northern Ireland

NHS pay in Northern Ireland has fallen behind that in the rest of the UK after three years without devolved government. Newly qualified nurses in the NHS in Northern Ireland start on £22,795, while their counterparts in England and Wales earn £24,214.

There were 2,800 vacant NHS nursing posts in Northern Ireland in January.

Heath unions’ campaign of industrial action

Unions staged five walkouts between December 2019 and January this year, as well as working to rule in the final two months of 2019.

RCN Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen 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.'

Resolving the issue of safe staffing ‘cannot wait any longer’

Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said unions would now work with the Department of Health to implement the agreement 'without delay'.

'In particular, we must see delivery on a strategy for safe staffing,' she said.

'Patients, the public and our members need a health service that has enough staff to meet increasing demand and deliver the care that is so badly needed. This issue cannot wait any longer.'


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