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NI nurse strike 2019 banner.jpg
PA
NI nurse strike 2019.jpg
PA
UK News

Northern Ireland healthcare at 'breaking point', says Christian NI doctor as thousands of nurses strike

For the first time, nurses have gone on strike in Northern Ireland.

Around 15,500 nurses in Northern Ireland are taking strike action over a pay dispute and patient safety.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) represents about 9,000 nurses who walked out at 8:00am Wednesday, the first time the union has taken strike action in its 103-year history.

The RCN  strike is set to last for 12 hours while many Unison health staff members, including nurses and paramedics, are staging a 24 hour strike.

About 6,500 other nurses, who are members of Unison, walked out earlier.

It follows weeks of industrial action by other healthcare workers over the same issues.

Christian Dr John Kyle told Premier the lack of political leadership has been a major factor in the problem with Northern Ireland's healthcare: "The health service throughout the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland is under extreme pressure and stress, but it has also suffered from three years of lack of political leadership.

"It has struggled with being under resourced. There is also a significant and severe staff shortage and the employment terms and conditions in Northern Ireland are inferior to those elsewhere."

Dr Kyle explained how the situation is worse than in the rest of the UK: "Currently nurses are not paid as much as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom and so staff retention is difficult and staff morale is low, meaning agency staff are being used and that is a more expensive and less efficient way to run the health service.

"Our hospital waiting lists are longer than any other in the rest of the country; people are waiting anything up to four years to be seen, so there is a crisis in the health service in Northern Ireland, due to under resourcing, a recruitment crisis and the lack of political leadership."

Dr Kyle believes the answer is to rethink the salary structure, he says nurses have not had a pay rise in a "number of years" and that modernisation of the health service needs to a priority, which requires political leadership to implement.

In regards to low staff morale, Dr Kyle says "nurses are under a lot of pressure" saying nurses in Northern Ireland are "a very committed workforce, very committed and compassionate, but the pressures they are under, it takes its toll on people's health and well being and family relations.

Dr Kyle is hopeful for change, he told Premier: "There are signs of hope. I think that improvements in the political situation will lead to improvements in terms of community relations and interactions between different groups in Northern Ireland."

Downing Street said the strike highlighted the importance of Northern Ireland's political parties working together to restore devolved government.

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