Press Release

Nurses’ degree programme gets £15m boost

Nurses doing degrees courses are to benefit from a £15M funding boost, the Minister for Health, Michael Martin, announced today (12th May 2000). Speaking at the Annual Conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation in Galway, the Minister outlined a five year programme into which the new funding will go.

“From next year, nurses working in the public health service who want to undertake nursing and certain other undergraduate degree courses, including access courses, on a part-time basis will have their fees paid in full by their employing agencies,” said the Minister.

This will be in return for a commitment on the part of the nurses to continue working in our public health service for a year or couple of years (depending on the duration of the degree course.

“Nurses who do not already have a degree will obviously welcome this move,” said the Minister, stressing that it will apply whether a nurse is employed in the public health service in either a temporary or permanent capacity.

Nurses staying in the public health service after their course will not have to stay in any one place – they’ll be able to change employment within the system after they’ve got their degree. Distance learning will also be involved, because of the disadvantage some nurses experience because they live outside the main population areas.

Pointing out that the health services had become central to every aspect of civilised living, whether that be aging or the removal of social inequalities, the Minister said that this posed new challenges at all levels of healthcare.

“It’s challenging, firstly, to every professional working within our health services – to those who are shaping those health services for the future,” he said. “It’s challenging the Government to see that the health services get the priority – and the funding – they deserve. I believe this Government has responded well to the funding challenge. Since taking office, we have allocated an extra £1,500M to Health (that’s a 56% increase in day-to-day resources). Under the National Development Plan, £2 billion in capital spending will be made available to develop health facilities – that’s almost three times as much as was provided over the previous seven years. Health has never got this kind of money before.”

The Minister said it was now time for everybody in the health services to create a new era in industrial relations: a positive era with more partnership than contention and conflict.

“Right now, we have a situation filled with possibility,” he said. “We’re going to implement the Commission on Nursing Report. Ten million pounds will be spent this year on initiatives across all disciplines, to implement the Priority Action Plan, which is already under way.”

The Monitoring Committee, established to review the progress of implementation of the Commission on Nursing report, had its second quarterly meeting on 2nd May. The INO is represented on that committee by Lenore Mrkwicka, David Hughes, and by Eilish Hardiman, who was a member of the Commission on Nursing.

Outlining progress already achieve, the Minister announced that the Department of Health has sought proposals from employers for the provision of clerical and IT support to first line nursing and midwifery managers. Two million pounds has been allocated to fund that this year, with another half a million pounds going to the Health Boards to provide similar structures for Public Health Nurses.

In addition, he said:

  • A new, Direct Entry Midwifery Education Programme will be introduced on a pilot basis next month. All 20 training places have already been filled. This 3-year programme will be operated by Trinity College in association with the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, and Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda.
  • A working group has been set up to review the current 18-month post-registration sick children’s nursing course a full review of its content, duration and academic award.
  • A high-level, multi-disciplinary group has been established by the Department to identify opportunities for nurses to make a significant contribution to the management of hospitals
  • The Office for Health Management will shortly be publishing a report on a study of nurse management competencies, in response to a recommendation from the Commission on Nursing. The identification of these nurse management competencies will guide the recruitment, selection, appraisal and development of nurse managers in the future.

“No matter where in the continuum of nursing you look, there’s change, development, progress,” said Minister Martin. “We’re already showing great results from last year’s recruitment drive. Now, we’ve got an Action Plan providing for 300 more training places on the nursing registration/diploma programmes. What I intend is that a total of 1,500 training places will be available. There’s also the possibility that the manner of recruitment will also be substantially changed, by the Bord Altranais proposal that the written assessment test and interview for school leavers be done away with from next year.”

The Department has circulated the proposal to all the relevant interest groups for comment.

Noting that today is International Nurses’ Day, the theme of which, this year is Nurses Always There For You, he said that, as Minister for Health, he was commited to doing everything he properly could to change and improve the working context, so that the esteem in which we hold nurses is manifest every day in their working conditions and their career path opportunities.