UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISON notes the publication (9th June) by the Minister of Health, Robin Swann MLA, of the Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services and the creation of a new Management Board for the health service. UNISON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown said:

‘‘We share Minister Swann's desire to rebuild our health and social care system and to get the right healthcare to the people at the right time and in the right place.

Undoubtedly lessons should have been learned from the response to the pandemic. Major contributions have been made by the front line - from doctors and nurses to cleaners and care workers. The fault lines in our system have been laid bare and it is to the credit of the health and social care workforce that we have been able to keep going.

UNISON members working on the ground will want assurances from the employers that their health and safety, and the safety of the public, can be guaranteed as the health service opens up again. We have not yet conquered the virus and we are concerned that the Executive as a whole is moving too fast to open up society and the economy.

It is clear that the health service needs to open up again, but this must be done in a safe manner for the public and the workforce. Non Covid patients need urgent treatment and support. The significant negative effects that Covid-19 has had on all aspects of public health and on already unacceptable health inequalities needs smart, deliverable solutions from across the entire Executive.

However bringing new thinking to this requires the direct engagement of the workforce, their trade unions and new thinkers at the table including the public health officers. It also requires complete engagement from all Executive Ministers, departments, public bodies and unions in a joined-up manner, much talked about but rarely realized.

We are concerned that instead of the kind of direct engagement by the workforce, their trade unions and the new thinking that is required, the new Management Board will simply be another bureaucratic tier in an already highly bureaucratic system. It comprises the same people it always did. We have to question where the new thinking will come from. The voice of the worker within our health and social services system must be heard.’’