An overseas nurse recruitment scheme in Northern Ireland has secured just under 50 new staff after nearly two years and £4.2m spent.
There is currently a 1,500 nurse shortage in Northern Ireland, meaning the country’s health service is operating at 10% below capacity of nurses.
As a response, in May 2016 the Department of Health launched an overseas recruitment scheme to encourage nurses to come from the Philippines and a small amount from India, with the aim of delivering 622 nurses by March 2020.
As previously reported by Nursing in Practice, by August 2017, the scheme had cost £566,000 but secured only 12 new nurses.
The scheme to recruit 200 international nurses is expected to cost around £10.5m over the four-year period.
The expenditure for 2016/17 was £4.2m out of the £10.5m allocated, meaning that while only an eighth of the target has been acheived so far, close to half of the budget has been spent.
At the time, 15 months into the programme, 66 applicants had come to Northern Ireland, although only 12 had been registered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to practise.
As of January the scheme has secured almost 50 new nurses for the country, with approximately 50 more working as nursing assistants until they complete registration with the NMC.
A spokesperson for the Department of Helath said: ‘As with any similar campaign, the position changes on a monthly basis. Approximately 100 new nurses have arrived in NI so far, with almost half of these already in nursing posts. The remaining nurses are working as nursing assistants until they complete registration with the UK nursing regulator.
‘In Northern Ireland, we have a very strong interest in the nursing profession with nursing places oversubscribed by approximately 10 applications for every university place. Non completion rates are also lower in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the UK.
‘We have a longstanding reputation of educating high calibre nurses – skilled graduate professionals whose education takes three full years. This means there are no “quick fix” solutions to the shortage we currently face. However, the Department is committed to ensuring we have sufficient nurses in our workforce and is proactively progressing a range of measures’.
They added: ‘This is not an option but a must do to support our staff and citizens in Northern Ireland’.
Other measures to address the nursing shortfall include:
- A return to practice programme, to encourage nurses who are out of practice to return to the profession.
- A pilot scheme to reduce the amount of administrative work that nurses are currently responsible for.
- Increased Investment in undergraduate training.
- Regional recruitment and retention works, including offering all final year nursing students permanent jobs.
- An investment of £12 million to help increase nurse staffing levels in acute hospital wards.
- An investment of £7.6 million in 2017/2018 for post registration nursing and midwifery education.
- An increase in funding for nursing degree places from 650 places per annum in 2014/15 to 901 by 2017/18, with added funding of £9.5m per year.
In October 2016, the then Northern Irish health minister established a Nursing and Midwifery Task Group to identify how this can be achieved and maximise the contribution that nurses make to improve outcomes for our population. The task group is due to report at the end of March 2018.