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Statement supporting health workers in Northern Ireland this Christmas

21 Dec 2021

Royal Colleges and Trade Unions send out message of solidarity to health workers this Christmas

Northern Ireland’s leading health care organisations representing doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, midwives and healthcare workers are sending out a message of solidarity to their members ahead of what many expect to be the worst winter period ever faced.

This message of support from the Royal Colleges and trade unions comes as the CMO issued a warning stating that the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly and is likely to be dominant or close to dominant in Northern Ireland by Christmas. The stark warning also comes as hospitals, ED, social care and GP services are already working under unprecedented strain.

“We are sending out a message of solidarity to our incredible colleagues that everything you are doing in the fight against the virus is valued and appreciated. We are 100% behind you and support all of the hard work you have undertaken over the course of this pandemic that started over 20 months ago.

 “Ensuring staff wellbeing is at the top of the list is crucial[1] as we enter what is likely to be the toughest period on record. We know many of you will be working over Christmas and the New Year, as we do every year, to make sure that we continue to deliver services to meet the needs of patients. For everyone that is working over the next few weeks, thank you.

“This is going to be one of the hardest periods we have ever faced. We know many of you are already exhausted and these next weeks will be a huge challenge.

“A major health effort to mitigate against the worst effects of the virus is currently underway with the booster campaign being accelerated across GP surgeries, Trust vaccination centres and community pharmacies. This accelerated vaccine drive across Northern Ireland is witness to a hugely impressive mass mobilisation of staff, who are determined to deliver the best line of defence we have against the virus. We also hope it will prevent our health service from being overwhelmed and facing a precarious workforce and bed shortage[2].

“This booster initiative is crucial given the speed at which Omicron is spreading. Reducing the number of people infected by Omicron will minimise the number of hospitalisations and take the strain off our health and social care services, especially our Emergency Departments. Every extra booster dose administered will not only protect you and your family, it will help ensure your health service can stay open to meet the needs of all adults and children. It also means we will be in a better position to support and care for those patients whose planned surgical treatments have been delayed or cancelled.

“The pressure on staff over the next few weeks will be immense. These are workers who are going into health settings every day, putting their lives on the line for patients and there is no doubt it has taken its toll on their physical and mental wellbeing. Please respect them and recognise the difficult circumstances they are working under. There is no excuse for verbal or physical abuse on our staff. Such actions are wrong and are ultimately counterproductive. Across society, there should a total acceptance that caring for our health care workforce is the absolute priority. We must treasure the staff we have today whilst making effective plans to build an appropriate and resilient workforce that meets the demand of the future.”

[1] ‘All close contacts of COVID-19 cases to self-isolate’ DOH press release 17 December 2021

[2] Academy of Medical Royal Colleges ‘A dozen things the NHS could do to help the medical workforce crisis’ December 2021

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England in Northern Ireland support the message alongside the following organisations:- the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association Northern Ireland,  the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office:

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