MR ROBIN SWANN MLA, Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and Chairman of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, has warned that the Province’s nursing profession must not be taken for granted and that the health service leadership and Stormont health minister need to understand that employing more nurses is part of the solution to the present hospital beds crisis.
Assemblyman Swann is also Chairman of the Stormont All Party Congenital Heart Condition Committee as well as UUP Chief Whip.
Mr Swann said: “We need to ensure there is more practical support for nurses from the very top of the health service.
“It is presently clear that the sterling work of nurses is not being given the priority it deserves. The grading system for promotion for nurses needs to be reviewed so that nurses can move more rapidly up the career spine.
“This would encourage more nurses to stay in the service and not go abroad for better pay and conditions. The upper echelons of the health service as well as the Sinn Fein health minister herself need to realise that nurses are the base upon which the entire structure of the NHS rests.
“Without the nurses, there would be no working health service. It is the nurses who carry the major burden when there is a ‘trolley wait’ crisis.
“The entire level of nursing provision needs to be urgently examined. At present, there are many nurses who graduate and become specialists.
“However, there are many others who don’t want to become academic nurses, but simply want to become nurses and tend to patients’ needs. There needs to be more recognition for the role of auxiliary nurses and the tremendous job they perform on the wards.
“The level of funding available for the recruitment and training of nurses for the health service must be radically increased. The dedication and skills of the Ulster nurses are commendable and they work so hard to put the patients first.
“Likewise, in terms of the current beds crisis, what is urgently required is more nurses, particularly in specialist areas such as intensive care.
“The Health Department and its minister must ensure that its management gets its priorities right. This means using the existing health budget to put patient care first, not the creation of expensive management teams.
“The short-term ‘fixes’ of employing staff from abroad to temporarily plug the gap in nursing requirements will only lead to the long-term increase in the hospital waiting lists and make the ‘trolley syndrome’ an even more permanent feature of our health service.
“If the Health Department and its minister are serious about wanting to develop a ‘patients first’ ethos, then they must radically address the long-term provision of more places for trainee nurses and additional posts in hospitals when that training is completed,” said Assemblyman Swann.