Health bosses under fire over ‘information vacuum’ on strike plans

Stormont health chiefs have come under fire for remaining tight-lipped about contingency plans to deal with looming strike action by nurses and health workers.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 6:01 am
Nurses and other health workers are set to go on strike over pay and staffing levels

The Department of Health has been asked repeatedly by the News Letter over the course of the past fortnight what plans it has put in place to deal with industrial action, and whether it intends to recruit agency or temporary staff to mitigate against the impact.

But little information has been forthcoming from the department about its plans.

This is despite the first industrial action being set to begin on Monday.

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Unison members will take the first phase of their planned strike action from November 25 until December 18, while the Royal College of Nursing will take their first strike action on December 18.

The trade union Unite is currently balloting members about joining the industrial action, while the Royal College of Midwives will begin balloting its members in January.

The dispute centres on pay and staffing levels.

Asked again about its contingency plans yesterday, a spokesperson for the department said: “Business continuity and contingency plans have been developed across the entire health and social care system and will be kept under review as required.”

But DUP health spokesperson Paula Bradley said patients have a right to know what plans have been put in place.

“We need to give people confidence that the health service is there for them, whatever happens,” she said.

“The fact is that this has been on the cards for some time and yet they have been unable to clarify what they are going to be doing. It is not good enough. People need to know what is happening.”

Alliance health spokesperson, Paula Bradshaw, expressed a similar view.

“There’s an information vacuum there,” she said. “How many times are they going to keep making this mistake of not getting the information out there?”