That is the message from the Department of Health as it offered fresh talks with trade unions on staffing investment.
Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: “It’s still not too late for trade unions to defer the industrial action planned for this week and get back round the table.
“I very much welcome the fact that the Royal College of Nursing has now written to the Department, detailing a series of proposals on staffing.
“Up to this point, discussions with unions had concentrated on pay issues. Now, the RCN has itemised specific demands in respect of safe staffing levels. In our view, these proposals can provide the basis for serious engagement.
“We have repeatedly made clear that our door remained open for discussions – with the specific aim of drawing up a detailed, costed implementation plan on staffing.
“We see no good reason why such dialogue cannot begin immediately. Deferring strike action would be in the best interests of patients and patient safety and would provide the necessary space for fresh dialogue.
“Our hospitals are already under severe pressure at present, even before the planned industrial action takes place this week.”
Mr Pengelly added: “On pay, the Department has repeatedly clarified that the key issue – pay parity – is a matter for consideration by a Minister. That is a position that cannot be changed by industrial action.
“In terms of political resolution, all main political parties have already publicly supported the calls for parity with England, and talks are ongoing about restoration of the devolved institutions. It is only that process that can provide the mechanism for a sustainable solution on pay.
“In that context, we would encourage unions to reflect on what possible objective could be served by further industrial action at this time.”
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