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Northern Ireland nurses forced to wait on pay rise

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Health service nursing staff in Northern Ireland must wait until a new government is formed before their probable 1% pay rise is confirmed.

Last week nurses in England, Scotland and Wales had yet another 1% pay rise confirmed by ministers for 2017-18, starting this month, after the latest recommendation from the NHS Pay Review body.

“This further adds to the anger and frustration felt by nursing staff”

Janice Smyth

In the wake of the announcements, unions warned that it meant the gap between income and cost of living for nurses continued to grow wider.

But nurses in Northern Ireland will have to wait to receive even an extra 1%, as the country’s current lack of government has brought policy decisions to a halt.

A spokeswoman for the country’s Department of Health told Nursing Times that it would be seeking to make NHS pay a priority for ministers once a new government was formed.

She said: “We note the publication of the report from the NHS Pay Review Body, and will seek an early decision on [health and social care] pay for 2017-18 within the wider financial context once a minister is appointed.”

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing called for a future government to opt for a pay rise above 1% in recognition of workforce shortages there.

Janice Smyth, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said: “At a time when there is a shortfall of up to 2,000 nursing staff in the health system in Northern Ireland, this miserly [1%] recommendation will further dent the morale of hard working staff.

Janice Smyth

Janice Smyth

Janice Smyth

“The absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive to make the final decision on this year’s pay award further adds to the anger and frustration felt by nursing staff,” said Ms Smyth.

“Once a new Northern Ireland Executive is established it needs to decide if it wants to stick to the 1% pay rise or if it is prepared to give nurses in Northern Ireland a fair and equitable pay award,” she said.

She noted that RCN members in Northern Ireland considered fair pay as their top priority, alongside safe staffing levels.

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