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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

“We want to see staff properly rewarded for the work they do” – Northern Trust Chief

The chief executive of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has said she respects the right of staff to take industrial action.

Speaking at a meeting of the Trust board on Thursday morning, Jennifer Welsh called for a “long-term funding settlement that addresses service pressures, workforce pressures and pay pressures”.

She said that pressures on the health service have been “evident for all to see”.

Today’s (Thursday 26 January) strike action has affected up to 2,500 service users in the Northern Trust at facilities such as day centres and adult centres with a “big impact” on domiciliary care, members heard.

Nine day centres are closed and one is operating a reduced service; adult centres are closed with 668 clients affected; GP treatment rooms are operating with “reduced capacity”; 24 day case, 10 out-patient and 15 endoscopy appointments have been postponed.

Fifty health visitor appointments have had to be rearranged and 1,500 domiciliary care visits have been cancelled.

Last month, approximately 1,000 people in the Northern Trust were affected by two days of strikes in departments including acute out-patients, health visiting, school health and GP treatment rooms.

The chief executive told the board: “There are significant numbers of services impacted. There are vulnerable people who require support but who will not receive domiciliary or adult day care.”

She also noted that services such as pharmacy, catering and portering are also affected. She acknowledged that health and care is a “way of life” for staff whom she described as the “backbone of the Health Service” and who work “relentlessly”.

“We want to see staff properly rewarded for the work they do,” she stressed. “We must not forget what they did for us all. I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of all our staff.”

She urged discussions at national level and for “those who can can do something to do so” to relieve pressure being felt “right across the system”.

Jacqui Reid, the Trust’s director of human resources, told the meeting:

“The level of service impacted is a fair indication of strength of feeling of staff. There was some quite strong feeling on the picket line this morning.

“We do understand for a number of staff, it is conflicting for many. I experienced a number of staff in tears who felt really conflicted for not providing a service but wanting to support their colleagues in terms of strike action.”

Unite says the strike is “a result of the failure to deliver a cost of living pay increase”.

Members of Unite, which represents 4,000 health and social care workers across Northern Ireland, joined members of other health unions in taking industrial action.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“These strikes are being taken as an absolute last resort. Our members are seeing the NHS eroded before their eyes and patients’ lives are being placed at risk due to chronic under-funding.

“In the absence of a functioning Stormont Executive, the responsibility for this strike lies squarely with Rishi Sunak who has failed to show leadership and ensure that NHS bosses made a realistic offer to the workers who keep our health and social care services running.”


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