Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Roy Beggs MLA has warned that only hours remain to reach a settlement to prevent looming strike action.
Roy Beggs said:
“The Northern Ireland health service is in the midst of spiralling crisis. Never before have so many people been waiting, and waiting for such unacceptably long periods of time. The delays are only being exacerbated by the debilitating shortages in the local workforce.
“The decision last month of the RCN to strike for the first time in their history will not have been taken lightly, yet our health system had become so fractured and so broken that staff felt they were left with no choice but to take a stand. The impact of staffing shortages on patient care was being passively tolerated, rather than rectified, for far too long.
“Under any normal democratic circumstances, the final hours before unparalleled strike action would present a major crisis for a Health Minister. They would have been locked in intensive discussions with the unions and the Department of Finance, and they would have been expected to produce a deal that resolved the pressures in pay. Yet it now appears unless there is a last-minute reprieve, strike action and all the associated disruption to healthcare that it will bring is virtually inevitable.
“With the ongoing absence of a local Executive, and the shameful refusal of our Secretary of State to intervene directly, once again it will be ordinary health workers and patients left to suffer.
“We simply cannot afford to wait until next year to see if the current political talks do or do not succeed – the crisis in our health service needs attention now and that can only be achieved through the direct intervention of the new UK Government.”