Nurses in Northern Ireland will take to the picket lines for the second time in three years “with heavy hearts”, but they feel they have been “left with no choice”.
The Department of Health has warned the action will inevitably impact an already fragile health service, while the Western Health Trust has announced that hundreds of appointments will be postponed on Thursday.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its members voted unanimously to take action earlier this year in response to an inadequate pay award that is well below inflation.
RCN members in England and Wales will also be taking part in the strike action.
Rita Devlin, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said none of their members wants to be in this position.
“It is with a heavy heart that many nurses will be standing on picket lines this morning instead of in hospital wards and in our community caring for patients,” she said.
“I am absolutely clear that no member of nursing staff wants to be in this position but we have been left with no choice but to take action.
“As we have seen this week, all areas of health care are under enormous pressure.
“Those working in the service are the same staff that have just carried us through a pandemic and are now being expected to deal with unsafe staffing levels, leaving them unable to provide the care for patients that they want to.
“We simply cannot continue like this for much longer.”
Ms Devlin said following a pay award last week, nurses in Northern Ireland are around 20% worse off in real terms compared to 10 years ago.
“Not only is this totally unfair but it is a key factor in the severe nurse staffing shortages affecting patient safety,” she said.
“We have almost 3,000 unfilled nursing posts in the HSC across Northern Ireland and we believe there is a similar number in the private sector, including nursing homes.
“Nursing is facing a recruitment and retention crisis.
“Our only option is to secure a fair pay award to ensure we retain the experienced and invaluable nursing staff within the service.
“If we don’t begin to support these staff, they will leave.
“It is also crucial that we take forward the measures agreed following our last strike action to address safe staffing levels, particularly the implementation of safe staffing legislation.
“Finally, we need strong, accountable political leadership to ensure we can make the decisions needed to transform our services and make it fit for purpose for all of us who use it.
“While we will not solve the crisis in our health service overnight this would almost certainly lead us on the road to recovery.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub Source : Radio News Hub