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Nurses to demonstrate at Stormont over ‘escalating crisis’ in NI health service

Nurses in Northern Ireland will later hold a demonstration at Stormont to highlight the “escalating crisis” in the health service.

It comes as voters across Northern Ireland head to the polls for the council elections.

The Department of Health last week said officials are having to make decisions on spending reductions with “great regret” following the budget which was set by Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris in the absence of locally elected ministers.

Stormont remains effectively collapsed amid DUP protest action against the Northern Ireland Protocol, with the party urging the London government to act to address its concerns.

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The expected cuts include reducing the number of nursing student places in Northern Ireland to 1,025.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will take part in the demonstration on Thursday.

RCN Northern Ireland director Rita Devlin said while the local government elections have no bearing on the issues they are raising, they want to “highlight the need for all parties to work together in the interests of patients, staff and the people of Northern Ireland”.

“The health and social care system in Northern Ireland is being decimated,” she said.

“The financial position is desperate and it is impossible to progress transformation or other long-term measures that are urgently required.

“The cuts to nurse training confirmed by the Department of Health will devastate patient care for years to come.”

Ms Devlin said there are almost 3,000 unfilled nursing posts in the health service and a similar number in the independent sector.

“Measures to address this, such as through safe staffing legislation, are not being progressed because of the absence of government,” she said.

“Falling out of pay parity with UK colleagues will have a further, negative, impact on the number of staff leaving the profession.

“Unless there is immediate progress, RCN members in Northern Ireland will feel they have no alternative other than to return to the picket lines, even though this is the last thing they want to do.”