UNISON Northern Ireland



Today (14th May 2018) the Department of Health has published a new health and social care workforce strategy for Northern Ireland. Responding to the announcement, UNISON Head of Bargaining and Negotiations Anne Speed said:


‘‘It is good that today the Department of Health has published a strategy that acknowledges the need to deal with the very serious workforce issues within health and social care that have been negatively affecting our members for many years.  We have been calling for the Department to develop a proper workforce plan to address staff shortages, improve the care the public receives and the conditions within which our members work.


Our focus will now turn to how the new workforce strategy is implemented.  We call on the Department to engage with UNISON and trade union side using the co-production process to ensure that the £15 million pounds in funding allocated for the strategy is spent on training, support and developing career pathways for all staff, particularly the lowest paid staff.  The Department must also ensure that funding for the implementation of strategy is sustained in years to come.


In order to have a stable workforce, the Department and the Health and Social Care Trusts must urgently deal with the overuse of agency and locum staff and the huge costs that this racks up.  Constant use of agency and locum staff to plug gaps in the service comes at a premium that cannot be sustained.    We need to see the vast sums of money that are spent on agency and locum staff  instead being used to recruit and retain staff on a permanent basis. 


The Department must also take heed of the fact that we will only be able to recruit and retain the workforce that we need when major issues surrounding pay and terms and conditions are resolved.  In England, a pay deal is currently being considered by NHS workers and if this is agreed, new funding will be allocated for a deserved pay award.  This will result in additional resources flowing to Northern Ireland under the Barnett formula and the Department of Finance and Department of Health must ring fence this money for pay for health and social care staff here. 


Our members work extremely hard to improve the health of the public, but have been doing so under pay freezes and pay caps since 2010.  They have also seen a pay deficit open up between them and their colleagues in the NHS in Scotland, Wales and England. 


In addition to this, the Department of Health must also ensure that the exploitation of low-paid workers in private companies contracted to provide services like domiciliary care is ended, as they are significantly underpaid and undervalued. 


The success of the workforce strategy is contingent on these issues being dealt with.  UNISON invites the Department of Health to work with us to improve the care the public receives and the conditions in which our members work.’’