Press Release

Martin launches “Towards Workforce Planning” – a report to ensure future supply of nurses

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin, T.D., has today (11th September 2002) launched Towards Workforce Planning, the The Nursing and Midwifery Resource – Towards Workfoce Planning July 2002. The objective is to ensure that there will be enough nurses and midwives in the future to meet on-going health care needs.

“I am confident that the recommendations contained in the study will, in conjunction with similar initiatives in other areas, provide a solid foundation upon which to build for the future,” said the Minister.

The report is the result of three and a half years extensive study. It describes the detailed analysis undertaken and charts the paths necessary for the production of incisive workforce plans. The ultimate aim is to have the right number of nurses and midwives in the right place at the right time, with the right skills to ensure that the patient receives the highest standard of care when needed. The report recommends the best possible approach to workforce planning for nursing and midwifery and how this may be kept under review.

Increase in training places

In the last five years the number of pre-registration education places for nursing has increased by 41% from 968 in 1998 to 1,640 in 2002. The Minister also welcomed the news that enrolment in the new nursing degree programmes is up. Early indications are that nursing is in particular demand in the CAO system this year.

“One of the pillars in ensuring the continued supply of registered nurses in the future is the introduction, this year, of the four-year undergraduate pre-registration nursing degree programme. We look forward to seeing the impact of this very significant investment starting to take full effect in 2003,” said the Minister.

Turnover rate down

Another central component of the study was the completion of the first National Study of Turnover in Nursing and Midwifery in Ireland. The complete report of the study is published separately as an accompanying document to the main report. The National Study of Turnover in Nursing and Midwifery documents for the first time in Ireland the turnover rate and provides the framework for continuing to monitor this important indicator. A welcome finding is that across hospital bands and services the overall turnover rate has decreased from 17% in 1999, to 15% in 2000 and 14% 2001.

“I am particularly pleased to read about the strong emphasis placed on retaining the very valuable experienced staff currently employed in the health system and to understanding the reasons why staff leave any particular organisation – Clinical Nurse Managers have a vital role to play in creating good local conditions conducive to staff retention” he added.

A number of issues influenced the progress of the study – chief among these was gaps in essential information required for forecasting. To this end a major achievement of the study was the establishment of the National Nursing and Midwifery Human Resource Dataset. The Minister urged all organisations employing nurses and midwives to adopt and use the minimum dataset on an ongoing basis. “It is a critical element to successful implementation of workforce planning” said the Minister.

Nursing vacancies down

Recent figures from the quarterly survey undertaken by the HSEA on The Nursing Resources for 30th April 2002 indicated that a total of 5,619 nurses were recruited in the previous 12 months (of this 1,722 were from abroad) and 3,339 resigned/retired/moved to another employer. The good news is that the number of vacancies has decreased by 4% since the previous survey. The Minister urged all employers to use the Guidance for Best Practice on the Recruitment of Overseas Nurses and Midwives published in December 2001 as part of the study.

Another important impact on the supply of nurses and midwives is the investment in the expansion of services. During the four-year period (1998-2001) the number of individual nurses and midwives employed in the public health system increased by 5,788 (19%).

“In every aspect of the health system the contribution of nurse and midwives is pivotal. Irish nurses and midwives have a very proud tradition and history in service delivery and our function is to maintain this as we move forward. I urge you to make this report a working document used by nurse and midwife mangers, human resource mangers, administrators, educators and policy makers throughout the system,” concluded the Minister.