Response to INO statement
The latest HSEA quarterly survey shows that there were 722 nursing vacancies in the public health system at the end of September 2003. This is a significant (29%) decrease from the 1007 vacancies reported at the end of June 2003. This level of vacancies represents 1.85% of the total and could be considered a normal frictional level, when allowances made for the lag between retirements and resignations and the filling of vacancies thereby arising.
This is a dramatic improvement on the situation prevailing some years ago and reflects the substantial measures introduced by the Department in recent years to address the recruitment and retention problem.
The recruitment and retention of adequate numbers of nursing staff has been a concern of this Government for some time, and a number of substantial measures have been introduced in recent years. These include:-
- an increase of 70% in the number of nursing training places from 968 in 1998 to 1,640 from 2002 onwards;
- payment of fees to nurses/midwives undertaking part-time nursing and certain other undergraduate degree courses;
- improved scheme of financial support for Student Paediatric Nurses and Student Midwives;
- payment of fees and enhanced salary to nurses/midwives undertaking courses in specialised areas of clinical practice;
- abolition of fees for “back to practice” courses and payment of salary to nurses/midwives undertaking such courses;
- financial support to State Enrolled Nurses (SEN) working in the Irish health service wishing to undertake nursing conversion programmes in the United Kingdom;
- 40 sponsorships are made available each year for certain categories of health service employees wishing to train as nurses.
The following table illustrates the improvements that have taken place in nursing numbers over the past number of years:-
|Whole time Equivelants||26,611||27,044||29,173||31,428||33,395|
In 1998, there were 26,611 whole-time equivalent nurses employed in the public health system. By the end of 2002 this figure had reached 33,395. This is an increase of almost 6,800 during the period or over 25%. It is clear from these figures that the recruitment and retention measures I introduced are proving very effective.