Northern Ireland

Health strike: NI nurses and other staff take fresh action

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Media captionAnne Marie Rafferty said words alone will not convince nurses to end their strike.

Thousands of healthcare workers across Northern Ireland are staging strike action on Friday, despite efforts to restore Stormont.

About 9,000 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members have been joined by nurses and other Unison workers.

NI Secretary Julian Smith said if political parties accepted the deal put forward on Thursday night, it would immediately end the industrial action.

But the RCN said the strike would proceed as planned.

The RCN said: "At this stage, the executive has not been reformed and the industrial dispute remains unresolved."

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Image caption Nurses on the picket line outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday

The latest information on exemptions to strike action can be found on the Health and Social Care Board website.

Hundreds of nurses and health care workers are staging a picket outside the Department of Health on Friday morning.

They are arguing that they have been told money is there to resolve the matter and that they need to ensure they get it.

They have called on Mr Smith to ensure the money is released whether or not the deal is agreed.

The unions are taking industrial action over pay and staffing levels.

The Health and Social Care Board said there would be "further significant disruption" to services on Friday with thousands of appointments cancelled and a number of hospital and community services affected.

As a result of the action, a number of special schools are closed, as are Mid-Ulster, South Tyrone, Bangor and Ards Minor Injuries Units.

Patients are advised that if they haven't received a telephone call or letter from their trust informing them that an appointment or procedure has been cancelled, then they should attend as normal.

The Department of Health said it did not have the authority to meet union demands over pay and staffing.

Strikes across Northern Ireland

RCN members began their 12-hour strike at 08:00 GMT.

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Image caption Nurses on strike at Belfast City Hospital

RCN director Pat Cullen said: "It is with great dismay that nursing staff begin the third day of strike action to address unsafe staffing and deliver pay parity back to Northern Ireland.

"Nurses do not want to be standing again on picket lines, losing another day's pay, and feel totally let down that they have been put in this position yet again."

She added: "Our members are absolutely determined to fight for a health service that patients in Northern Ireland deserve. Nurses have shown courage and resilience during this dispute and will continue to do so until we can achieve a system that is fit for purpose."

Unison staff from four trusts are striking on a staggered basis throughout the day. There is also continued action short of strike by a number of other unions.

Trusts affected

  • The Belfast Trust area is the worst hit with 1,064 outpatient appointments cancelled, together with 106 inpatient and day cases. All patients involved have been given a new appointment date.
  • The South Eastern Trust has cancelled 340 outpatient appointments and 89 procedures.
  • The Western Trust has cancelled 383 outpatient appointments and 50 inpatient procedures. It has also cancelled 700 treatment room appointments, as well as all out-patient clinics at Altnagelvin Hospital.
  • The Northern Trust has cancelled 30 outpatient appointments, 1,500 treatment room appointments and 850 routine district nursing appointments.
  • In the Southern Trust, 43 surgical procedures have been postponed and approximately 145 treatment room appointments cancelled.

A total of 243 children who attend Tor Bank, Oakwood and Mitchell House special schools are affected as the schools are closed due to not being able to provide medical cover.

Two further schools in other areas are also closed.

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Image caption The unions are taking industrial action over pay and staffing levels

Across Northern Ireland, hundreds of school and infant immunisations have been postponed.

The trusts also said there will be greater pressures on emergency departments.

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Image caption The RCN and Unison say they are committed to strike and said the public was firmly behind them

Earlier this week, six trust chief executives warned that the further strike action could push the system "beyond tipping point".

In a statement, they said the fall-out could be "much more serious" than the 18 December strike.

But the RCN and Unison said they were committed to strike and said the public was firmly behind them.

The RCN has previously called for "urgent measures to address unsafe staffing levels and deliver pay parity with colleagues from across the UK".

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