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UNISON is growing increasingly concerned at a trend of care home closures in Northern Ireland.

That concern has been heightened by Deloitte’s announcement yesterday that three care homes in the Care Circle Group – Braefield in Connor, Slemish in Ballymena and Kingsway in Dunmurry – have gone into administration.

This came after last week’s decision by Belfast Trusts to close Pine Lodge Residential Care Home and follows the closure of several care homes runs by Four Seasons in the last year.

UNISON activists received special recognition at the TUC Congress in Brighton this week.

Darren Barber, branch secretary at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk and regional convenor for UNISON Eastern, was honoured with the TUC organising award.

When he started at the hospital, union membership was at an all-time low. But now, membership has grown from 365 to 810  and the number of active UNISON stewards from two to 14.

With continuing pressure on NHS managers in England to both tighten their belts and privatise, the poor state of the pound and the uncertainties created by Brexit, it’s crunch time for the health service.

Although health is a devolved issue, the NHS is also suffering financially in Scotland, Wales and particularly Northern Ireland as a result of Westminster’s austerity policies.

A key difference between the devolved nations and England is that the latter falls under the Conservative government’s department of health – and at the sharp end of the cuts.

UNISON, the largest trade union within the Four Seasons Group, was notified this morning that seven homes are to close across Northern Ireland. 

This brings to eight the number of Four Seasons closures within the past month and may not be the end of the matter.

Antrim Area Hospital

Paediatric nurses in Antrim Area Hospital have voted ‘yes’ in favour of action short of strike action and 93% in favour of all-out industrial action – with an unprecedented 100% return on ballot papers and a 100% return voting.

UNISON joint branch secretary for the Northern Trust Stephanie Greenwood said, “This ballot outcome is unprecedented in its return percentage and its vote for action. This must serve as an acknowledgement as to how strongly the nurses within UNISON feel.”

As health unions prepare to protest at Stormont today we understand that the minister for health is about to make a major statement on reorganisation of the health service.

UNISON has been pressing for reorganisation since 2006.  We have supported most of the key proposals in the Donaldson Review.

We want to see an end to commissioning – the internal market which is wasting up to 15% of the health budget year on year.

Nurse Sue Moore is the latest winner of UNISON Northern Ireland Cindy Fogarty Learning Award.

Ms Moore was a nursing auxiliary when she started her learning journey with UNISON. This saw her gain her nursing degree and she is now a band 6 nurse, who manages a twilight team at the Belfast health and social care trust.

Ms Moore received her award from general secretary Dave Prentis and is pictured alongside the general secretary and her team from work.