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Department of Health expecting “significant disruption” as more than 4,000 NHS staff set to strike

Ambulance parked at hospital

The Department of Health has warned today (Monday 18 September) it is expecting "significant disruption” as over 4,000 staff employed by the NHS prepare to go on strike in Northern Ireland.


Unite the union confirmed last week that the lastest planned industrial action will take place from 00.01am on Thursday 21st September and will continue for 48 hours.


The strike is the latest in an ongoing dispute for fair pay and safe staffing. NHS workers in Northern Ireland have been denied a pay increase provided to health workers in England and Wales.



Unite’s striking members represent the full range of health service staff including paramedics, pharmacists, health visitors and community practitioners. Unite members are set to join other health trade unions in the biggest strike action in the NHS in Northern Ireland for many years.


A spokesperson for the Department of Health said:


"The Department of Health is expecting significant disruption to services as a result of industrial action on September 21 and 22.


"Intensive work will continue this week with the aim of mitigating impacts on the public where possible, but some reductions in service are inevitable. Information on impacts from industrial action will be provided on HSC Trust websites this week.



"The Department understands the deep-seated frustration over the ongoing absence of a pay offer for this year but very much regrets that colleagues have decided this industrial action is required.

In setting out the implications of the budget it received for 2023/24, the Department said in May that it was facing an “impossible position” and that decisions are required that are not in the best interests of the health and social care system.


"That remains the case today.


"As has been previously stated, the current budgetary constraints mean that matching the English pay offer for Agenda for Change health and social care staff would require large scale cuts on an unprecedented scale, with severe and lasting implications for services. That would be outside the scope of our decision making powers.


"The Department continues to look for ways to address the pay challenge."



Announcing the industrial action last week Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham said:


“It is disgraceful that NHS workers in Northern Ireland are denied the same pay increase offered in England and Wales. NHS workers in Northern Ireland face being left the poor relation in a two-tier service – a situation which will worsen recruitment and retention pressures and deepen the staffing crisis.


“NHS workers can count on the full support of Unite in their fight to secure pay justice and safe staffing.”



Lead regional officer for Unite in Health, Kevin McAdam added:


“Northern Ireland NHS workers cannot and will not accept second-class pay. Low pay is driving a staffing crisis that is undermining our health service. Lost services mean unacceptable delays and barriers for those needing life-saving treatments and pressure to ‘go private’. The resulting reliance on private sector recruitment agencies and locum staffing poses unsustainable costs to the public purse.


“The fight of NHS workers for fair pay and safe staffing is the fight to save our NHS. We are calling on the public to get behind the health workers and show their solidarity. This fight is a fight for all.” 

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