Health Minister Robin Swann says pay parity for health workers in Northern Ireland has now been achieved.

The UUP minister met with unions on Tuesday morning, in a bid to resolve the ongoing dispute over pay and staffing.

Representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON, UNITE and NIPSA were involved in the meeting at the Department of Health headquarters in the Stormont estate.

Speaking in the Assembly a short time later, Mr Swann said he believes "all the component parts are in place" to settle the dispute.

He said he hopes unions will now end their industrial action.

The meeting is taking place at the Department of Health. Credit: UTV

Nurses have taken strike action on two occasions with further action to take place later this month if the dispute is not resolved.

Those working in the health service say it is in crisis, struggling to cope with ever-increasing demands placed on it.

Workers have been seeking pay parity with colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales with the RCN calling for safer staffing levels.

Mr Swann said the estimated cost of restoring pay parity between nurses in NI and England for this year and next is £109m.

Part of the cost for the current year is to be financed by drawing forwardproposed allocations for future years.

Mr Swann said: "Additional funding has now been secured. Pay parity withEngland can be restored.

"Our nurses and other great health and social care workers can come off thepicket line, can get back to the job that they love and do so well."

The health unions released a joint statement after the meeting.

"Trade unions today have had a meaningful briefing with the minister for health in advance of his address to the Assembly," it said.

"We expect correspondence from the minister on the two substantial issues in the current dispute, pay parity and safe staffing.

"Tomorrow we will spend time at the Department for Health considering the details on what is required for the restoration of pay parity.

"We will take the minister’s correspondence to our respective executives thisweek and thereafter regional trade unions will make a public statement."

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill have welcomed the announcement.

Ms O'Neill said: "I think this is a hugely significant first step for this Executive."