New Health Minister pledges to restore salary parity for Northern Ireland’s nurses

Nurses will receive a pay rise in a “breakthrough” bid to end strike action which has paralysed the health service in Northern Ireland, the new Health Minister said.

Robin Swann pledged to restore salary parity with England for this year and next in one of the first actions of the new powersharing administration.

It is estimated to cost an extra £109 million.

Thousands of nurses walked out this month and last amid mounting anger over pay levels and understaffing.

Mr Swann (pictured, centre) said: “The breakthrough we all wanted has been achieved.

“This is a good day after some very difficult days.”

Part of the cost for the current year is to be financed by drawing forward proposed allocations for future years.

Mr Swann said: “Additional funding has now been secured. Pay parity with England can be restored.

“Our nurses and other great health and social care workers can come off the picket line, can get back to the job that they love and do so well.”

Stormont Executive ministers are expecting billions of pounds from the Treasury to finance the ambitious plans outlined in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, an accord tabled jointly by the UK and Irish governments.

Much of it will be used to address the multiple problems that have beset public services during the three-year powersharing impasse.

Top of the list is the high-profile pay dispute involving health care workers, and action to reduce spiralling hospital waiting lists.

Mr Swann said: “Decisive action has also been taken on the vital issue of staffing and my department is providing a written commitment to immediate high-level engagement with unions to produce a costed implementation plan on safe staffing within an agreed short period.”

He said he was grateful to colleagues around the Executive table for helping to make it happen.

Ministers met on Tuesday morning.

Mr Swann said: “We have moved significantly and quickly to take action together.

“That is a sign of optimism for the future.”

The Health Department has found an additional £79 million for this year but an extra £30 million is required, financed through drawing forward proposed funding allocations for future years.

Mr Swann said: “So while I am glad that it is not impacting on the funds available for other services this year, it is important to note that it has not been financed by an additional allocation to Northern Ireland.”

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