Health Care Workers To Work To Rule – Who Is Responsible?

And who Is Responsible for the upcoming Nurses Strike?

An opinion piece on the health crisis by Kevin McAteer ( a former Newry Mourne and Down Councillor )writing for Down News.

I want to first take the opportunity to commend our amazing Nurses for the first class work that they do, they are a credit to our community and our Health Service would be lost without them writes Kevin McAteer.

To strike for the first time in their 103 year history is quite incredible. And to think that the Health Service in 2019 has reached a point whereby an organisation has decided to finally take strike action after a century raises some very serious questions about the current state of the NHS. 

This strike however is not a reaction to an absent Assembly albeit that doesn’t help matters, but these failings date back nearly 10 years to the early days of ‘austerity’.                             

The Downe hospital in Downpatrick and Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry will see hospital staff work to rule for three weeks and the nurses will also be on a one day strike towards the end of this period.

The issue itself dates back to roughly 2010 whereby severe cuts to the nursing sector in relation to jobs, bursaries and changes in pay had massive repercussions throughout the NHS as this did not fall into line with the rest of the UK. And who were the Health Ministers in charge?  Michael McGimpsey (UUP),  Edwin Poots, Jim Wells and Simon Hamilton (DUP),and Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Féin).

While the Health Ministers were responsible for policy changes and cost cutting, these decisions would have been finalised by the NI Executive.

Is it safe to say those parties that were involved in both the Health Ministerial portfolio and the Executive itself are responsible for the current Nursing strike?                                                

As a devolved institution the Northern Ireland Executive is/was an administrative body, answerable to the Assembly, and responsible for a number of portfolios and most importantly responsible for rubber stamping any changes in policy or decisions on saving money. 

From 2010 all 5 main parties in the Assembly have held positions in the Executive. As a result since 2010 DUP Health Minister Jim Wells created changes that helped establish a pay disparity from the rest of the UK, Simon Hamilton proposed a measly 1% pay increase and despite negotiations over the years there remains a deadlock with the Health Department. So what have the political parties actually done to prevent this strike action?                                                                            

Questions need to be asked as to why the DUP made these decisions which have had a significant impact now resulting in strike action.

Furthermore, what do the political parties who have recently declared support for our nurses during strike action plan to do about this issue if and when they decide to take their seats in the Assembly?

Also, where do our Westminster candidates stand on this issue? The problem most certainly lies with the political parties. This has been an ongoing issue that has prompted the very best in our health service to reach boiling point and essentially snap prompting strike action.

The real nail in the coffin is that these political parties are offering their support and knocking on doors looking votes for the upcoming Westminster election as if nothing happened.

Perhaps showing interest in this issue for now whilst looking for votes but once the election is over will the wishes of the electorate be cast aside and forgotten about?

Personally, I believe our nurses deserve better than to be used as election pawns. This is something for the electorate to think about when the political parties are canvassing at your door over the next few weeks.