Nurses warn of burn-out in new strike over pay and recruitment

Support us and go ad-free

Thousands of “burned out” nurses have taken to picket lines in the north of Ireland as one-day strike action brings some health services to a standstill.

An escalating row over pay and conditions in the under-pressure hospital system emptied treatment waiting rooms across the country.

Politicians are trying to reach an agreement which would produce a funding boost for an NHS beset by long waiting lists for treatment and rancour over employee pay levels while struggling to fill some vacant posts.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) protest follows a similar walkout last month over salary rates that lag behind colleagues in Great Britain and staff shortages.

Lyndsay Thomson, 30, from Bangor in Co Down, who works as a staff nurse in anaesthetics at the Ulster Hospital, said: “We cannot retain or recruit staff and staff are just at the point of burn-out.”

Anne Waterman, 60, a staff nurse from Belfast involved in day procedures at the same hospital, joined a picket line and added: “I know people hear us but we really need to be listened to and we don’t know what else to do at the minute other than this.”

More than 2,000 appointments and procedures have been cancelled due to the walkout, including several Caesarean operations.

Talks broke down without agreement in December, when unions rejected a 3.1% pay offer due to their demand for pay parity with the rest of the UK.

Nurse strike
Nurses on the picket line outside the Ulster Hospital near Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Waterman called for action from Stormont’s political leaders, who have so far failed to restore devolved powersharing, saying “politicians here really have to step up to the mark, speak up for us and support us because we do not know what else to do”.

The RCN took strike action on Wednesday and Friday, while members of Unison (the largest health workers’ union in the north of Ireland) will stage walkouts on Friday.

The country has some of the longest waiting lists for treatment in the UK, and political paralysis at Stormont has hampered efforts to address problems.

Thomson said nurses have reached breaking point.

“Patient safety is being put at risk every day and nurses have said that enough is enough,” she added.

Seamus McGoran, interim chief executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust which delivers services in Co Down, said a new powersharing Executive can deliver on pay parity.

He added: “We’re having to prioritise our most urgent patients and, for example, those who are waiting for planned care, those numbers are getting bigger and the lengths of waits is getting longer, so we really need political leadership.

“We need long-term investment and we need a workforce plan that will deliver more sustainable staffing levels for many years to come.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us