RCN: Northern Ireland
Consultation on termination of pregnancy legal changes
The Department of Justice is conducting a consultation on amending the criminal law on the termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland 
It is consulting on possible changes to the law to establish, for the first time in Northern Ireland, a legal right of conscientious objection for nurses and other health professionals, an issue consistently highlighted by the RCN over recent years. The consultation also addresses termination in cases of “lethal foetal abnormality” and rape or incest.
The closing date is 17 January 2015.
The RCN is currently drafting its response to the consultation and welcomes members’ views to inform its submission. Please contact: John.Knape@RCN.org.uk if you would like to help influence the RCN’s response to this significant consultation.
Are you interested in attending RCN Congress 2015?
Are you an RCN member in Northern Ireland who is interested in attending Congress 2015? If so, a number of funding opportunities exist to support members' attendance at RCN Congress, which takes place in Bournemouth between 21 and 25 June 2015.
The call is also currently open for the submission of agenda items for RCN Congress 2015. By submitting an agenda item, you could directly influence RCN policies and strategy, as well as shaping the way that the public views nursing. Congress agenda items can be submitted by RCN branches and Forum committees, country and regional boards, the Student and Health Practitioner Committees, and the UK Stewards, Learning Representatives and Safety Representatives Committees.
The deadline for submitting items is 23 January 2015 and further information is available via the Congress 2015 webpages: http://www.rcn.org.uk/newsevents/congress/2015/agenda/submit_an_agenda_item
RCN responds to DHSSPS draft budget consultation
The RCN has submitted its response to a DHSSPS consultation on its draft budget proposals for 2015-16. The response criticises the current budget cycle within health and social care. The RCN states:
“It is unacceptable that annual budgets for health and social care organisations are routinely finalised well beyond the beginning of the financial year to which they apply. It is unacceptable that commissioning plans are published towards the end of the business year to which they apply. It is unacceptable that “efficiency savings” are imposed on health and social care organisations less than five months from the end of the financial year in which they must be secured. It is unacceptable that pay awards are announced two-thirds of the way through the financial year and that arrangements for paying the sums owed in back pay have not been finalised as the year enters its final quarter.”
The RCN urges that if public confidence is to be restored in the capacity of the DHSSPS to manage public expenditure, it must ensure that its financial and business planning processes are fit for purpose. The submission criticises the publication of a draft budget that is largely based upon unsubstantiated and apparently random cuts being imposed across the budget area without providing even the broadest indication of what these cuts actually entail.
It also questions how the DHSSPS can seek to guarantee the safety of services to patients and clients, given the level of cuts required both during the current financial year and during 2015-2016. In relation to nurses’ pay, the RCN condemns the fact that the Health Minister has recently written to the independent NHS Pay Review Body to advise that:
“… pay restraint will continue to be required for 2015/16 …” , that he is “… not seeking a recommendation from the pay review body specifically in relation to pay …” and that he is asking the independent NHS Pay Review Body to “ … make observations on the barriers and enablers within the AfC pay system for delivering health care services over seven days of the week … without increasing the existing spend [sic]”.
The response states that:
“The RCN regards this is as nothing less than the gratuitous and unprincipled exploitation of nurses in Northern Ireland”.
The RCN will be intensifying its What if ... nurses were treated fairly? campaign during 2015 . In relation to the prospect of further cuts in “administrative and back office costs”, the RCN has consistently highlighted in recent years how reductions in administrative support have created their own bureaucratic impositions on nurses’ time and resources, distracting them from valuable contact time with patients and clients. The response welcomes proposals to examine current administrative arrangements within the HSC and suggests that specific attention should be focused on the various bodies responsible for the commissioning of health and social care services.
Finally, given the counter-strategic impact of current HSC trust contingency plans, whereby many services that provide an effective alternative to acute hospital admission are being reduced or closed, the RCN asks if it is time for the DHSSPS to admit that the Transforming your Care reform process is now over. The submission states:
“The challenge for the DHSSPS is to secure these savings in ways that do not add further to the already unacceptable administrative burden on frontline nurses and that do not, more importantly, further undermine standards of patient care, the patient experience and patient safety”.