UNISON Northern Ireland


Today (4th December) the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, has spoken publically about the ongoing industrial action by UNISON health workers. Responding to these public statements, UNISON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said:

“We know the Chief Medical Officer to be a genuine advocate for reducing health inequalities. We also know the system has failed to reduce inequality. Seven years ago the Chief Medical Officer shocked the public by speaking out about the failings in our health system. He stated, with evidence, that working class people were dying prematurely and those living in the most disadvantaged areas now had a lower life expectancy than they had during the years of conflict here.

That situation has not improved. It has worsened. It worsened when we had a devolved government. It worsened in the absence of a devolved government and still no one in power takes responsibility.  

The money to solve the immediate pay problem is a fraction of the money wasted in the heating scandal.

Our members have continuously spoken out publicly about unsafe staffing levels which they face daily and which have brought many of them to the brink of despair. The crisis in healthcare did not suddenly happen on 25th November 2019 when UNISON members commenced industrial action. The crisis, together with the growing pay gap caused the action.  

We are not prepared to have our members scapegoated by the Chief Medical Officer or anyone else who has presided over the growing crisis for patients.

Last night BBC Spotlight revisited patients on the waiting list. Their situation had not improved 2 years after the original programme was made. Their stories of pain and hardship were very real and are repeated across too many households in Northern Ireland.

We call on the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer and all the others in leadership in the Department of Health to stand with health workers – not against them.

In his intervention, the Chief Medical Officer has offered no new solution to this crisis. Instead he has simply repeated hollow proposals that have already been rejected by trade unions.

We are challenging the Secretary of State to remedy the situation.  At what point will the leadership of the health and social services system stand up with us?

We will not tolerate the struggle of health workers and the misery of patients being used as a battering ram to put pressure on political parties to return to Stormont. Health may be a devolved matter but funding it is not.”