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Northern Ireland doctors and nurses join forces to demand improvements in healthcare

27 Apr 2022


Two Royal Colleges representing thousands of nurses and surgeons in Northern Ireland are holding a joint hustings event at Belfast Castle today. The aim is to press politicians on their manifesto commitments that seek to improve the situation facing Northern Ireland’s health service and its staff.

The event will involve election candidates from across Northern Ireland’s political spectrum and will be chaired by The Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Northern Ireland Director, Rita Devlin, and The Royal College of Surgeons of England’s Northern Ireland Director, Mark Taylor.

The joint hustings event is a strong show of solidarity from the two leading health organisations who, in the face of huge pressures, are united in their calls on making workforce the number one priority for new MLAs in the next mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Staff on the frontline have borne the brunt of a brutal two years of providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some staff feeling burnt out and leaving the profession. Both Royal Colleges say drastic action is needed to address the challenges in the HSC workforce with sickness rates soaring and morale the lowest it has been in years.

Alongside the impact of the pandemic in the community, hospital staffing levels are wreaking havoc on waiting lists for planned operations. Northern Ireland’s unacceptable waiting lists, dire before COVID-19 struck two years ago, are now much worse.  Roughly one in four of the population are on a waiting list, either to see a consultant for the first time, or for surgery/treatment.

Professor Mark Taylor, Northern Ireland Director of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said surgeons stand ready to play their part in the transformation of the health service.

“Patients deserve better and we are determined to deliver more timely care for people that have been languishing for years, waiting for an appointment, or for surgery. Our surgical manifesto calls for stronger workforce planning, more surgical hubs, implementation of existing waiting list plans, and better support for patients while they wait for the care they so desperately need. We need to have that honest conversation with patients about the challenges we face. They deserve to know how long they will have to wait for their operation.”

The RCN is calling for strong, accountable political leadership for our health and social care services moving forward.

Northern Ireland Director Rita Devlin said: “The crisis in our health and social care system has many underlying causes. But it is rooted more than anything in the fact that there are not enough nurses and other health care staff to provide the right level of care for patients.

“The greatest challenge for the next Assembly and Executive is to deliver a workforce capable of meeting the health and social care needs of the people of Northern Ireland. Health service staff are an asset to be valued and supported – not a cost to be controlled or reduced. Alongside our medical colleagues, nursing has a leading role to play in rebuilding services and targeting the unacceptable health inequalities that exist here. We need our politicians to take urgent and meaningful action to ensure the crisis we’re currently facing deepens no further.”

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Surgeons Hustings event will take place at Belfast Castle on Wednesday 27 April from 2pm until 3.30pm. Light refreshments will be served from 1.45pm. You are invited to make reporting/ photographic arrangements.

RCS Election manifesto:

RCN Election manifesto:

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is represented in Northern Ireland by a Professional Board of 20 surgeons reflecting the specialty areas of: Neurosurgery, ENT, Paediatrics, General Surgery, Trauma and Orthopaedics, Plastics, Urology, Vascular, Cardiothoracic and OMFS. The Board includes 10 elected regional specialty advisors, Association of Surgeons in Training (ASiT), QUB Medical School Surgical Society, NIMDTA Head of the School of Surgery and an RCS England Council member. The Royal College of Surgeons of England provides world-class education, assessment and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research and championing the best outcomes for patients.

For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office:

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the voice of nursing across the UK and is the largest professional union of nursing staff in the world. The RCN promotes the interest of nurses and patients on a wide range of issues and helps shape healthcare policy by working closely with the UK Government and other national and international institutions, trade unions, professional bodies and voluntary organisations. 

For more information, please contact Lisa Holden, Communications and Marketing Manager on 07789 691505 or

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