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Northern Ireland’s nursing workforce continues to grow but turnover is high at 5%

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The number of nurses and midwives working in health and care services in Northern Ireland continues to climb but turnover is high, with nearly 1,300 leaving in the past year, new figures show.

The statistics provide a snapshot of the number and make-up of the nursing and midwifery workforce in Northern Ireland, as of March this year.

It reveals there were more than 17,200 individual nurses and midwives working in the country’s five health and social care trusts, ambulance service and regional services.

This equates to 15,134 whole-time equivalent (WTE) nurses and midwives at Band 5 or above – an increase of 1.3% in the full-time nursing and midwifery workforce since March 2016.

The statistics, published by the region’s Department of Health, show the number of WTE nurses and midwives has gone up steadily in recent years, increasing by 7% since March 2013.

The figures also show an increase in nursing support staff, with just over 4,267 WTEs in post in March this year, up 4.6% on the previous year. Overall, the nursing support workforce has increased by 8.3% since March 2013.

In addition, the latest workforce census includes information on staff turnover and shows significant numbers both leaving and joining the workforce.

A higher rate of nursing and midwifery staff left their jobs in the past year than other health and care professionals, with a leaving rate of 5.9% – 1,299 nurses and midwives in all.

This rate compares to 5.2% for doctors and dentists, 5.1% for social care staff and 4.2% for ambulance staff.

At the same time, nursing and midwifery in Northern Ireland saw the largest number of people taking up jobs – 1,613 people in all.

This represents a joining rate of 7.4%, just behind social services at 7.6% and above medicine and dentistry at 4.3%.

The data also shows that 397 nursing and midwifery staff moved roles – a 1.8% moving rate.

The census covers the majority of staff working in hospital, community and social services in the region. But it does not include bank nurses or sessional staff or members of staff on career breaks.

It confirms that nursing, midwifery and health visiting is the biggest occupational group, with a total of 19,000 WTE staff, representing 35% of the WTE workforce.

Just under two thirds – 65% – of nursing and midwifery staff were employed at bands 5 and 6, with 22% at bands 1 to 4, and nearly 13% at bands 7 to 9.

Of the qualified nursing and midwifery staff, more than half – 53% – were acute or general nurses, while 11% were mental health nurses, 7% midwives and 7% specialist nurses.

District nursing represents 6%, paediatric nurses 5% and health visitors 3%. Just 3% were classed as nurse managers.

The vast majority – 92% – of nursing and midwifery employees were female, with 56% working full time.

Of the 1,754 male nurses and midwives, 90% worked full-time with more men working in mental health than other branches of nursing. In all 22% of mental health nurses were male.

The figures show 60% of nurses and midwives are aged 40 or over, with a significant proportion aged 50 or above.

The group with the largest proportion of staff over 50 were treatment room, practice and family planning nurses, at 57%.

The figures show 38% of midwives are aged 50 or above, as were 37% of health visitors and 36% of district nurses.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Why is there a turnover? In many cases the answers are obvious but the culture of the management is to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Let us talk about London and the some of the teaching hospitals. The population is cosmopilitan and the natives of this country. But even within this cosmopolitan population from whichever part of the world they come from there is click appartenance and if one foreigner does not belong to their group, he/she had it. That member of staff will be completely isolated, sometimes bullied and even harassed and without no say, no support for CPD and promotion. If he/she complains to management, there is a seemingly conflict resolution which most of the time backfires on the weak link as the attitude and the culture of click group will not change and the person has no choice but to leave the job and seek elsewhere. Looking at CPD, the Francis Report is cited a lot in University Lectures and Interviews but do managers really want to apply some aspect of Francis Report in their department. One staff who has worked in scrub theatres wanted to start a course in anaesthetics which he wanted to self-fund. The management did not want to support him because they did not find the relationship with the scrub side - fair enough - for narrow thinkers. So he went to seek help with BARNA and the answer was "you need to get support from your manager and unfortunately we do not support and sort out placements for student is anaesthetics." This is the answer from one of the module leaders in BARNA. So much is the help and the way forward to thwart nurses shortages in theatres/anaesthetics. Looking at promotion, the same applies. So do you think it is human enough to work in these conditions? Whereas some will answer, if you do not like it here go away. Yes, this is exactly what some nurses are doing.

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