Ministers in Northern Ireland have announced a 15% increase in the annual number of pre-registration nurse training places and the establishment of a new task group on nursing.
The increase, announced yesterday, will take the number of annual nursing course places commissioned in Northern Ireland to over 700 for the first time since 2009.
“The RCN believes that an independently chaired review group is urgently required”
Meanwhile, the task group is being set up to look at the future of nursing and midwifery over the next decade, including the potential creation of “new and exciting roles”.
In 2015-16, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Health commissioned 645 pre-registration nursing places across three universities – Queens’ University Belfast, Ulster University and the Open University.
The 100 places announced will be in addition to these, said the DHSSPH in a statement. It added that 25 of the places would be provided at the Open University.
The course provided at the Open University is targeted at staff already employed within health and social care who wish to pursue a career in nursing.
Health minister Simon Hamilton said: “I am delighted to be able to announce an increase of 100 pre-registration nurse training places to be available in Northern Ireland from autumn 2016. This increase will take my department’s annual commission of training places to 745.
“Even though we have increased the number of frontline nurses and midwives in the HSC by 1,200 over the past four and a half years, I recognise that the demand for nurses across our health system continues to rise,” he said.
Mr Hamilton added: “I am also announcing the commissioning of a task group under the direction of the chief nursing officer to which I will appoint a lay chair. This group will make clear recommendations about the future delivery of nursing and midwifery over the next 10-15 years.
Extra 100 nursing course places in Northern Ireland
“It will inform the development of new and exciting roles, building on the existing skills of our graduate workforce to lead the transformational changes required to deliver the world class health service to which we all aspire,” he said.
The Royal College of Nursing said it welcomed that the DHSSPH was continuing to “financially support nurse education” in Northern Ireland, despite its “significant financial challenges”.
RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth also welcomed the commissioning of the Task Group for Nursing and Midwifery.
“The nursing profession is facing unprecedented pressure and the Royal College of Nursing believes that an independently chaired review group is urgently required,” she said.
“This provides an opportunity to ensure an approach that promotes health and wellbeing, identifies and embraces innovative practice and work already undertaken in Northern Ireland and is informed by evidence of best practice here, across the UK and further afield,” she added.