Nurse strike: Public support strong but no sign of Government pay deal

Nurses on strike at the South West Acute Hospital Credit: UTV

Nurses across Northern Ireland have said they had no choice but to join the picket line.

Carol Kidd, an ICU nurse at the Royal Victoria Hospital, told UTV it was a "scary experience" to leave her patients.

"It's quite worrying. It doesn't sit well, put it that way," said Carol.

But nurses believe there is no longer an alternative to strike action.

Thousands across Northern Ireland, England and Wales have walked out over pay and staffing levels, making this the biggest strike in NHS history.

Carol told UTV that the pay nurses receive "is appalling".

"I know what I'm on as a newly qualified nurse and it's what I'll be on for the next two years, £13.50 an hour."

This is the RCN in No

rthern Ireland's second strike in its 106-year history.

Three years ago, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, nursing staff went on strike over pay and conditions.

The Executive Director of the Belfast Trust, Chris Hagan, joined nurses on the picket line on Thursday.

He told UTV: "I just want to show my support for our nursing colleagues. They do the most fantastic job and they have always risen to look after patients in Northern Ireland.

"They worked so hard during the Covid pandemic and they deserve to be recognised and they deserve fair pay."

The RCN's Rita Devlin said she wrote to the Secretary of State and received a letter back, simply stating that he had received her letter.

"He has not made any contact with the RCN in Northern Ireland at all," she said.

"It's disappointing, not surprising... there doesn't appear to be any will there of any relationship that I can see with the people of Northern Ireland."

Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland Maria McIlgorm said: "It is important that we resolve this issue. The matter of pay however is a matter for national negotiation and I hope that that will be resolved soon because patient care is what everybody is about... and I know for the nurses here today, that's important to them."

Hundreds of day care procedures and surgeries were cancelled on Thursday due to the strike.

Despite this, the support from the public remains strong.

Downing Street has said there are "no plans" to look again at the pay deal for nurses.

Number 10 and Health Secretary Steve Barclay stood firm on the issue of pay when questioned by reporters.

With little hope of a resolution soon, nurses will return to the picket line next week and again in January.

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