Conlig woman says patient safety is paramount

Nurse ‘gutted’ as
strike beckons

By Lesley Walsh

A CONLIG nurse says she is ‘gutted’ at having no alternative but to join thousands of nurses from across the UK in strike action next week in a bid to ensure patient safety.

Lyndsay Thomson is an anaesthetic nurse at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald who says ‘nurses are on their knees’ and daily face untold pressures stemming from epidemic staff shortages.

The 33 year-old is among the many nurses of the Royal College of Nursing who next Thursday will join their counterparts from across England and Wales to strike.

The action will be repeated five days later, on Tuesday, December 20 – all focused, she stresses, on protecting NHS patients.

Nurses will walk out in protest at pay levels and the everyday pressures which are resulting in a ‘haemorrhage’ of nurses from the profession.

She is hoping the public will come out in support of nurses, as they did during strike action in 2019.

“Current staffing levels are unsafe and we need the public to support this action to help protect the NHS,” said Lindsay.

The local mother of one points out that of the striking nurses from the UK – which excludes Scottish RCN members – her colleagues in Northern Ireland are far worse in terms of pay as well as the lack of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive.

The RCN is calling for a rise of 5% above the RPI inflation rate – currently above 14%. And while nurses in England and Wales have been given an average increase of 4.75%, Northern Ireland nurses did not receive their expected rise in April because of Stormont’s ongoing freeze.

Lyndsay said Northern Ireland nurses receive £1400 less than their counterparts on the mainland, and even less than Scottish nurses who get the best deal in the UK in terms of salary.

She said it was infuriating when she hears that the average nurse receives £35,000 a year, when the average Band 5 nurse – some 60% of nurses – earn £31,000.

Like most nurses who have dedicated themselves to their calling, Lyndsay is committed to nursing, and opted to push herself on to a specialism.

The remit of Lyndsay’s field means she divides her time between theatre, maternity, emergency department and wards where emergency procedures take place.

Qualified for almost 12 years Lyndsay has been working in theatre for ten years and she is currently in her sixth year of university, working towards attaining the required standards of her specialist professional development.

She is now studying towards a post-graduate diploma in anaesthetics at Queen’s, as required for registration with the Nurses and Midwifery Council – which costs £120 a year from her own pocket.

Despite all her ambitious efforts and commitment to reach and maintain the top echelons of her particular field, she feels overwhelmed, just like her colleagues from all sections of nursing.

“We are just on our knees,” she lamented. “Every shift we go into we know it’s going to be short-staffed or the skill mix isn’t going to be great.”

Explaining the importance of ‘skill mix’ amid current staff shortages, she said established protocols dictate the number of staff required for certain practices and procedures.

With patient safety their number one priority, Lyndsay stressed: “We will not run a theatre without the correct number of staff,” and conceded that the result is often cancellations of procedures, with the inevitable increase in already long waiting lists.”