John Dallat at his home in Kilrea. Photo: Mary K Burke
A local MLA has praised the "extraordinary care" given to him by doctors and nurses during a recent spell in hospital.
SDLP Assemblyman John Dallat made the comments whilst welcoming the move by the Health Minister Robin Swann to provide nurses and health workers from the North with pay parity with their counterparts in Britain.
“I add my best wishes and support as someone who has, in recent times, been receiving extraordinary medical attention in Altnagelvin Hospital from outstanding doctors and nurses," Mr Dallat said in the Assembly last week.
“Will the Minister take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that never again will staff feel so demoralised that they feel the need to join picket lines and that, instead, they are allowed to concentrate on their vocations, which, of course, is in the interests of not just the National Health Service but all of use who have had the experience of benefiting from it?
In response to the East Derry representative, the Health Minister replied: “I thank the Member for his question. Msy I just say how good it is to see you here today? You are looking well.
"I appreciate the fact that you are here, because I know that, when there is a tough question to be asked of the Health Department, you are able to do it.’
"Some of this, however, £30m in total, will be drawn from future year budget allocations. Applying England’s pay values to current pay scales in Northern Ireland, will effect from April 1, 2019 will create pay parity with England.
“That I estimated to cost £109 million. The Department has, through a combination of in-year easements and successful bids for additional funding, been able to assembly £79 million, £50 million of which is non-re-current funding, to increase pay for this staff grouping for 2019-2020.
“Therefore, an additional £30 million is required to meet the costs of Agenda for Change pay parity with England in 2019-2020. A move to pay parity will, of course also have implications for our budget in future years,’ he told MLAs.
Mr Swann added: “I should clarify that the funding of the £30 million cost to move to parity in the current year is to be financed by drawing forward proposed allocations for future years.
“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.”
The UUP minister met with unions on Tuesday morning, before making the announcement. In response the union chiefs agreed to suspend industrial action.
Representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON, UNITE and NIPSA were involved in the meeting.
An agreement was finally reached on Wednesday night after many hours of intensive negotiations between the trade union group and the Department of Health.
However, NIPSA has expressed concerns over proposals to address safe staffing demands.
Robin Swann says he will be working with NIPSA in the days that lie ahead.
In a statement he said: “This has been a very difficult time but I believe everyone across the health and social care system can now move forward together.
“Today’s announcements will be welcomed by many – not least by patients and of course staff who took industrial action with a very heavy heart.
“I want to again pay a heartfelt tribute to our nurses and other health workers and the great work they do. Only yesterday, we saw figures showing that the number of compliments in our health service far outnumbers the number of complaints.
“This illustrates the great health care that is provided day and daily across Northern Ireland, despite all the serious problems facing the system. I recognise, of course, that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
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