Nurses in Northern Ireland who want to come back to the profession have to pay costs of up to £1,000, with waits of up to two years to obtain re-registration, according to a former nurse.
Following Nursing in Practice’s report that chief nursing office in Northern Ireland, Professor Charlotte McArdle is launching an overseas recruitment programme to try and recruit 600 nurses from the Philippines and India to help fill shortages, a former nurse suggested that Professor McArdle ‘should look at the mandatory requirements for return to practice for nurses in Northern Ireland’.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, she said: ‘Currently it can take almost two years from first enquiry until re-registration.
‘These nurses are required to complete 10 weeks of unpaid clinical practice and must be able to undertake 12-hour shifts, irrespective of their circumstances.
‘Is Professor McArdle aware that the costs of occupational health assessments and vaccinations must be paid for by the nurses, that they must buy their own uniforms and incur other costs in order to get back on the register?
‘Taking childcare and travel costs to unpaid placements into account, the cost of the course could run over £1,000. Those starting the course in January will not be able to register until June and therefore will not be able to get employment as a nurse until after that date.’
She went to claim that there were only 30 funded places on a return to practice programme offered by Ulster University (pictured), despite having 68 applicants.
‘Sorting out this situation would be a good starting point to getting 68 nurses into the workforce very quickly,’ the former nurse added.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said the number of spaces on the Ulster University return to practice nursing programme is dependent on available resources.
‘Demand for places on the programme this year has been greater than the number of funded places available,’ she said.
The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, Janice Smyth said the situation ‘demonstrates inequality’.
She said: ‘When a nurse comes here from Europe they are paid as healthcare assistants until they can meet the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) requirements relating to the English language.
‘This clearly demonstrates that there is an inequality and that is something that needs to be looked at.
‘Secondly, if there are 68 nurses wanting to come back to the profession, then we need to look at the number of return to practice places the Department of Health is funding,’ Ms Smyth said.