Resolution reached in bitter NHS pay dispute
A resolution to a bitter two-year dispute over pay for nurses and thousands of other healthcare workers appeared to be reached last night.
DUP health minister Simon Hamilton said would be accepting and "honouring" the recommendations of an independent NHS pay review body for 2016/17.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing, Janice Smyth, said she was delighted with the outcome.
In December, the union said it intended to ballot nurses for industrial action short of an all-out strike following the failure of Mr Hamilton to grant a recommended one per cent pay award for 2015/16.
It followed a series of strikes by thousands of other NHS workers in the north.
Last month, Mr Hamilton said it would cost £40m to meet a one per cent increase, which he described as "utterly unrealistic".
While a deal has not been hammered out for this financial year, it is understood there are hopes the review body will look favourably upon the north's healthcare sector for 2016/17.
In a statement released by the Department of Health yesterday, Mr Hamilton said he had "reflected upon ways to secure an appropriate, fair and sustainable way forward for pay".
“Following discussions with the Royal College of Nursing, I am announcing a commitment to seek a recommendation from the Independent NHS Pay Review Body in respect of a 2016-2017 pay award. I will be recommending that the conclusions of the Independent NHS Pay Review Body are honoured in determining the 2016-2017 award.
“I believe that it is in the interests not just of nurses and other health service staff but also, perhaps more importantly, of the patients, clients and wider public whom we are all here to serve that we return to the Independent NHS Pay Review Body in respect of the 2016-2017 award."
Ms Smyth said it was a "victory for our members".
"We recognise the many challenges faced by the minister… and we welcome his decision to ask the NHS Pay Review Body to make recommendations on pay for 2016-2017 for all staff, including nurses, paid under Agenda for Change. We believe that this is the fairest way to determine nurses' pay."