The results of a recently released health and social care survey are positive, but also indicate areas where work still needs to be done, UNISON Northern Ireland head of bargaining Anne Speed has said.
Around 7,000 people, almost 40% of those asked, responded to the questionnaire.
Nine out of 10 of those said that they felt their role made a difference.
“This is great news and shows that, after 65 years, the NHS is still as important to people today as it was when it was first established,” said Ms Speed.
“Those who work for our health and social care organisations are extremely dedicated to their roles and, above all else, just want to help and care for patients,” she added.
“This begs the question why – with such a happy, devoted and compassionate workforce in place in our NHS – is the health minister intent on transferring care to the private sector.
“Edwin Poots’ suggestion that these survey results will lead to policy change is unwise. This particular survey is definitely not the platform on which policy changes should be discussed.”
The survey also claimed that 13% of respondents had experienced physical violence at work.
“We are aware of a growing culture of zero tolerance in the workplace,” Ms Speed commented.
“However, there is currently no agreement or documentation in place to formalise a zero tolerance policy. The sooner this is done, the safer our workers will feel and the more confident they will be in their positions.”
One other area of concern raised by the survey was the issue of discrimination and staff reporting of it. Of respondents, 64% of those who experienced discrimination did not report it and 63% held the view that their organisation does not take effective action if discrimination is reported.
“Frankly, this statistic is shocking,” said Ms Speed. “The staff members involved obviously have little confidence in their organisations to properly investigate their complaints, the most common of all being religious discrimination.
“Health and social care organisations need to address this issue immediately, review their procedures and start building confidence among staff that they can report discrimination in a safe environment, and that it will be thoroughly and suitably investigated when they do so.”
In summary, she said: “There are positives to come out of this survey, but there are still areas of concern that need to be addressed quickly.”