The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has suspended its strike action in Northern Ireland after receiving a detailed framework on pay parity and safe staffing from Northern Ireland Assembly health minister, Robin Swann.

The framework will be put before the RCN UK Council today for discussion and consideration with RCN members.

In addition, Pat Cullen, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, has advised the province’s health and social care trusts that strike action planned for next week will no longer take place. 

Nurses and other health workers in Northern Ireland began a strike in 25 November, having voted overwhelmingly to take action over safe staffing levels and pay parity. The action marked the first time nurses had chosen to strike in the RCN’s 103-year history.

Cullen said: “This has been a long and difficult road for nurses in Northern Ireland, but following the unprecedented decision to take strike action, our members finally have something concrete to consider in relation to both the restoration of pay parity and safe staffing. We firmly believe this movement towards a better and more sustainable health and social care service is because the voice of nursing not just spoke up but was heard.”

She added: “I am immensely proud of the steadfastness and determination that nurses have shown in order to improve conditions not just for nurses, but for patients who have been subjected to longer waiting lists and delayed care for long enough. This dispute always focused not just on pay, but on ensuring that we have the right numbers of nurses in the right places, to provide the care and treatment required.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Nurses never entered into this lightly, but their hard work and difficult decisions secured real progress. They will feel immense pride at what they’ve secured for their patients and fellow professionals.”

She added: “Nurses should never have been backed into that corner and there are lessons for governments, politicians and employers everywhere that nurses will increasingly take a tough stand for what’s right and, when they do, the public are in full support.”