More than 800 nursing and midwifery posts have been cut so far this year in the Republic of Ireland, according to latest figures.
Analysis by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation shows 804 frontline nursing and midwifery posts disappeared during the first 10 months of 2013, rising to 1,068 when support staff are also included.
In addition, the figures reveal that 5,133 nurse and midwife posts have been lost in Ireland since 2009, which INMO warned represented almost 13.5% of the total nursing and midwifery workforce.
The workforce data was released by Ireland’s Health and Safety Executive to the INMO.
The union called on the Irish government to immediately exempt nursing and midwifery posts from “any further contraction” and begin restoring staffing levels to ensure they were “adequate to meet patient needs”.
INMO general secretary Liam Doran said: “These figures are truly shocking and demonstrate, once again, that both government and health service management have failed, completely, to protect frontline services through the maintenance of frontline posts.”
He said the data was “graphic proof” of a “slash and burn” approach to healthcare service in Ireland that was “damaging, corrosive, indefensible and cannot be continued”.
Despite similar concerns over staffing levels across the Irish Sea, Mr Doran used the UK as an example for the HSE to aspire to.
He highlighted that the coalition government had recently revealed that hospital trusts were planning to recruit 3,700 nurses, in the wake of the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
A Nursing Times investigation in the autumn revealed that many trusts in England were attempting to recruit more nursing staff due to patient safety concerns, following several years of cuts to nurse posts. However, many were struggling to find staff to fill the vacancies, leading them to seek nurses from overseas – including from Ireland.
Mr Doran said: “What is needed now is an immediate commitment to replace these lost nursing/midwifery and other frontline posts, in keeping with what is happening in the UK, in the face of damning evidence of the harm done to patients by poor staffing levels.
“It is worth noting that a study released earlier this year, confirmed UK wards were better staffed than their Irish equivalent,” he added.
The HSE did not respond to a request from Nursing Times for comment.
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