Northern Ireland nurse and reproductive health care champion recognised in New Year's Honours List

Credit: Royal College of Nursing
Nicola Bailey was named RCN Nurse of the Year in 2021 for her passion for promoting women's health services. Credit: Royal College of Nursing

A nurse who defied opposition to provide early medical abortions to women in Northern Ireland during the pandemic has been made an OBE.

Nicola Bailey was awarded the honour for services to healthcare in Northern Ireland in the King's New Year's honours list.

Operating outside formal commissioned services, Ms Bailey's clinic at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust offered early medical abortions within days of lockdown being imposed. The Covid-19 restrictions meant women were no longer able to travel to England to access services.

Nicola Bailey was awarded an OBE in the King's New Year's honours list. Credit: Royal College of Nursing

Ms Bailey was named RCN Nurse of the Year in 2021 for her passion for promoting women's health services and her bravery in continuing to run them in the face of protests and political opposition to abortion services.

She has been an active member of the Northern Ireland Abortion and Contraception Task Force as well as Doctors for Choice NI, a group of healthcare practitioners who campaign for abortion rights, where she is leading work to ensure abortion is included on curriculums for nursing and midwifery undergraduate university courses.

She is also involved in work at the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health to ensure that nurses' voices are heard and valued as service leaders and are central to improving care for women.

She has been part of the successful campaign for safe zones around abortion clinics to prevent patients being harassed by protestors and was a vocal campaigner on the need for commissioned abortion services in Northern Ireland.

Ms Bailey is shortly taking up a role as postnatal project manager at North Bristol NHS Trust.

Ms Bailey said: "It is a great honour to receive this award and to be recognised for doing something that I feel passionately about - improving sexual health and reproductive health services for women - although it also feels quite surreal.

"I'm delighted that it showcases what nursing does as a profession and the difference we make to the lives of the people we care for. This honour will further drive me to improve women's health services, ensuring they have access to the care they need, when they need it.

"While I'm pleased that abortion services have finally been commissioned in Northern Ireland, there are still huge gaps in health services for women across the UK and I'll continue to do whatever I can to fill them through my work.

"I'm grateful to everyone that has supported me, and continues to support me."

RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: "Nicola has demonstrated the greatest of skill, dedication and professionalism in standing up for the needs of her patients.

"She continues to demonstrate the very best of nursing and should be enormously proud to be honoured in this way."

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