A North Antrim MLA has called on the Health Minister to ensure that nurses are given a “proper pay rise”.
UUP Assemblyman Robin Swann said no one should “underestimate the crucial and valuable role our nurses contribute to our health service”.
Mr Swann, who is Chairman of the Stormont All-Party Committee on Congenital Heart Disease, said it was important that nurses are given a proper pay rise and a sensible wage to “reflect the tremendous contribution they make to health service and society in general”.
“I speak from personal experience having witnessed the amazing and selfless dedication these often unsung heroes give to others,” Mr Swann said.
He added: “My son spent the first year of his life in the Children’s Hospital in the Royal in Belfast and not only did the nurses on Barbour Ward and in Clarke Clinic nurse my son, they kept him alive during some very tough times, and they provided unbelievable levels of emotional support to me and my wife through that time and many still keep in contact.
“So I firmly believe that they are entitled to their pay rise. The Ulster Unionist Party fully supports nurses being awarded the recommended 1% pay rise, but the hard reality is that this rise is a modest and below inflationary increase.”
Mr Swann said nurses deserve praise for working so admirably in what are becoming increasingly difficult circumstances.
“With approximately 20% of the population now on a waiting list, and patients regularly coming to harm as a result of excessive delays in diagnosis and treatment, our nurses are preventing the system from collapsing all together,” Mr Swann said.
He added: “Our hospitals and clinics, as well as patient care in the community, all depend on them. It is very sad to note that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK in which nursing staff have not received a final pay deal.
“This means that workers in the NHS in Northern Ireland are now the poorest paid across the entire UK. An experienced staff nurse in Northern Ireland is now paid £279 a year less than in England and £561 a year less than in Scotland.
“Given that our medical staff in Northern Ireland are signed up to the NHS’s wider UK terms and conditions, they shouldn’t be treated any worse or any less thought-off than their colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales.”
Mr Swann said the Royal College of Nursing is balloting on possible industrial action.
“This is clearly a decision that is not taken lightly. It shows the frustration that our local nurses are feeling,” Mr Swann said,
He added: “In addition, the decision by the Royal College of Midwives earlier this year to hold industrial action for the first time in its 134-year history was indicative of the pressures being felt right across the local NHS workforce.
“As a result of the farce regarding in/out Ministerial resignations, a key meeting in September that could have resolved the matter was cancelled and for months the issue was then ignored by the Department and the Health Minister.
“Having shamefully ignored this issue for so long, DUP Minister Simon Hamilton needs to give nurses the support and priority they deserve, and he needs to award the 1% pay rise immediately.”