Nurses are being forced to use food banks and borrow money for petrol to get to work, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, one nurse even had to borrow money to buy nappies for her child.
“I had a member saying to me I can’t even afford nappies for my child,” Denise Kelly, chair of the RCN’s Trade Union Committee told UTV.
She added: “I am hearing from members they are having to borrow money from family, having to take out loans, are attending food banks. Most staff are taking extra shifts to pay their rent and to travel to and from work.”
Today the Royal College of Nursing has begun balloting all of its members across the UK for strike action.
Nurses in Northern Ireland want pay parity with nurses in other parts of the UK.
However, with no functioning government and no agreed budget the health minister has said a pay increase cannot be implemented.
If strikes do go ahead nurses here could be back on the picket line by the end of November for the second time.
RCN Northern Ireland Board Chair, Fiona Devlin, said: “Three years after taking strike action, nursing staff in Northern Ireland cannot believe that we are back in exactly the same position.
“Not only has nurses’ pay fallen behind other sectors, but our hard-working staff have not even received the same pay award that colleagues in England and Wales received last month. Unfortunately we believe we have no other choice but to take action.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said he has “always been very clear in my support for our health workers in regards to what I have been able to do within the budgetary availability that I have had."
He has also said he is very mindful of the cost of living pressures on health and social care staff and across the wider community and that he will continue to do the best he can amid ongoing budget uncertainty.
Rita Devlin, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said it is “despicable that nurses in Northern Ireland have once again fallen behind colleagues in the rest of the UK and are being paid less because of the political situation.”
She added: “We are repeatedly hearing reports of unsafe staffing levels and unsustainable pressures on all parts of our health service. This simply cannot continue.”
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