One year on from having to take industrial action in pursuit of fair pay and safe staffing levels, the nursing profession in Northern Ireland remains in crisis.
There has been limited progress on staff recruitment but legislation on safe staffing levels and improvements in nursing pay remain unresolved.
The Covid pandemic has underlined the central and fundamental role played by nursing staff in hospital and in community care, but despite effusive praise and admiration the Executive has yet to act on the key outstanding issues.
There is still a serious shortage of nursing staff, improvements in pay and conditions have not materialised and safe staffing levels have yet to be secured.
Many of the current difficulties stem from a lack of workforce planning and the reduction in the number of nurses in training. It will take time to rectify those issues and there must be public guarantees and detailed plans from the Executive and the Department of Health to address them.
For the safety of patients, and for the good of the nursing profession, there must be immediate legislation passed by the Assembly to guarantee staff staffing levels.
Last year’s strike action was the first in the RCN’s 104-year history. It should not need to be repeated.