The Northern Ireland director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has hit back at health bosses who said patient safety could be compromised “like never before” by this week’s strike action.
Pat Cullen stressed that RCN nurses working in emergency departments had been exempted from today’s strikes, and that nurses on picket lines had been “standing up for patients”.
She was speaking after the chief executives of Northern Ireland’s six health trusts issued a joint statement asking that the strikes be put on hold.
“Our nurses, it must be very clearly stated, are in providing those life-preserving services for their patients today whilst they are still on strike,” Ms Cullen said.
Laura McClintock, a nurse who specialises in palliative care was one of those on a picket line at Altnagelvin Hospital today. She expressed a similar view, and stressed that patients support nurses.
“This isn’t a decision we have taken lightly, definitely not,” she said.
“But it’s reflective of the position that the service is in that nurses felt that they had no choice. The patients have been entirely supportive.”
Anne Waterman, a 60-year-old staff nurse from Belfast involved in day procedures at the Ulster Hospital, said the profession was trying to speak as one voice.
She said their first priority would always be patient safety but RCN members were beyond breaking point.
“The stress that staff are under in the wards in all the units in all hospitals in Northern Ireland is beyond being able to be coped with any longer,” she said.
Ms Cullen added: “We all wish to see a rapid solution to this crisis.
“However, this will not be secured by trying to blame nurses.”