A series of nursing workforce reviews and extra funding for student places have been announced in Northern Ireland after concerns were raised by the Royal College of Nursing.
Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots said an additional £300,000 had been made available for post-registration education this year, following a recent meeting with RCN representatives at which questions had been raised over whether the current nursing education budget was adequate.
He said: “I am pleased to announce this funding package, which will be used to support the development of nurses to deliver high quality care into the future.”
Mr Poots said there would also be a new workforce plan for nurses and midwives among a range of measures outlined earlier this week. It was necessary to know that the NHS had the “right number of nurses in the right place” and that education and training was available to support “the way forward”, he said.
A separate piece of work will focus specifically on maximising the development of community nurse roles, Mr Poots added.
In addition, there will be a review of the use of agency and bank nursing staff, with the development of key performance indicators for hospitals explored as a means of minimising their use.
There will also be a review of skill mix within nursing teams to ensure all grades of staff are appropriately used and supported “as the profile and setting of care changes”.
Lastly, Mr Poots announced a pay audit for Agenda for Change and an investigation into the availability and use of information technology in Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care service.
He said: “I have asked chief nursing officer, to take this work forward in conjunction with commissioners, the Public health Agency for Northern Ireland, health trusts and the RCN.”
RCN director for Northern Ireland Janice Smyth said: “The issues that the RCN recently raised with the minister reflect a range of concerns related to the nursing workforce in Northern Ireland that have been highlighted by our members.
“The RCN is grateful to the minister for listening to our concerns and for putting in place a series of measures that will address them,” she said.
A project plan and associated action plan for the review work announced by Mr Poots is currently being drawn up by officials from Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.
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