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RCN members take a stand over lack of political leadership for health service

18 May 2023

RCN members will hold a demonstration at Stormont today, 18 May 2023, to voice their anger about the escalating crisis in health and social care, and the lack of political leadership and accountability for the system in Northern Ireland.


At the RCN’s national Congress held in Brighton this week, General Secretary Pat Cullen told delegates: “In Northern Ireland, our members are continuing to fight for safe staffing, patient care and fair pay in perhaps the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

“This is the second Congress in a row - and the fourth in six years - where we are forced to highlight the absence of the Assembly and Executive. What a terrible lack of political leadership and accountability. RCN members had made great strides in promoting safe nurse staffing and that has been shamefully suspended.

 “The system is hanging by a thread. Financial cuts of breath-taking brutality hang over it. Three hundred student nurse places were slashed just yesterday. 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. The message goes out from this hall, regardless of where any one of us is from: nursing deserves better.”

 Commenting ahead of the gathering at Stormont, RCN Northern Ireland Director, Rita Devlin said: “While today’s local government elections have no bearing on nursing issues, we must highlight the need for all parties to work together in the interests of patients, staff and the people of Northern Ireland.

“The health and social care system in Northern Ireland is being decimated. 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 confirmed by the Department of Health will devastate patient care for years to come.

 “We have almost 3,000 unfilled nursing posts in the HSC and a similar number in the independent sector. Measures to address this, such as through safe staffing legislation, are not being progressed because of the absence of government. 

“Falling out of pay parity with UK colleagues will have a further, negative, impact on the number of staff leaving the profession. 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.

“Fair pay for nursing and safe staffing are supported by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland. But if they are not sitting round the table, they are not in a position to address these issues. We need all elected politicians to be fully engaged in resolving the crisis within health and social care.”

Page last updated - 18/05/2023