Nursing student cuts will ‘devastate patient care for years to come’
RCN members protest at Stormont in Belfast as college’s Northern Ireland director says she will not rule out possible ‘return to the picket lines’
Angered nurses staged a demonstration outside parliament in Northern Ireland over the ‘decimated’ health service in the country, as a union warns a return to the picket line ‘looks inevitable.’
Members of the RCN gathered at the front gates of Stormont in Belfast yesterday before walking the mile to parliament buildings holding placards in protest over cuts to nursing student university places.
The action came after the Department of Health announced last week that it is slashing 300 places following a budget by secretary of state Chris Heaton-Harris.
‘Cuts will devastate patient care for years to come’
RCN Northern Ireland director Rita Devlin said the current state of the health service was the worst she had seen in her career.
‘The health and social care system in Northern Ireland is being decimated. We don’t have enough nurses to look after our patients,’ she added.
‘The financial position is desperate, and it is impossible to progress transformation or other long-term measures that are urgently required. The cuts to nurse training will devastate patient care for years to come.’
Ms Devlin said there were almost 3,000 unfilled nursing posts in the health service and a similar number in the independent sector.
Nurses in Northern Ireland may ‘return to the picket lines’
As a new RCN strike ballot opens in England next week, Ms Devlin said she would not rule out further strike action for her members, too.
She added: ‘Nurses in Northern Ireland are the worst paid in the UK. It is no wonder we have issues with recruitment and retention to our health service.
‘Unless there is immediate progress, RCN members in Northern Ireland will feel they have no alternative other than to return to the picket lines, even though this is the last thing they want to do.’
RCN head says health system is ‘hanging by a thread’
Earlier this week RCN general secretary Pat Cullen called the situation for nurses in Northern Ireland ‘shameful’ as she addressed college members at RCN congress in Brighton.
She told members: ‘The system is hanging by a thread. Financial cuts of breathtaking brutality hang over it. Three hundred nursing student places were slashed… and our members do not know if they will receive an enhanced pay award for last year or any pay award at all for this year.
‘It is an outrage and we will not let it rest.’
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