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Minister makes pledges on nursing in Northern Ireland

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A range of new senior clinical nursing posts will be created in Northern Ireland, under government plans to address staff shortages and ease pressure on emergency departments in the country.

Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots also made a commitment to increase the number of district nurses and health visitors, and said more advanced nurse practitioners would soon be working in accident and emergency departments.

He made the announcement on 22 May at the Royal College of Nursing’s Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year ceremony, where he pledged to invest in nursing.

“I am committed to ensuring that you have the resources required to do your job”

Edwin Poots

There will be double the number of health visitors in training this year and next, and a significant increase in the number of district nurses in training “to provide care over the 24 hour day and the seven day week”, he promised nurses attending the RCN event.

Mr Poots said he expected to see at least 20 new advanced nurse practitioners starting work in A&E departments very soon and that the role would be further developed in paediatrics and primary care.

He added that he also expected each health and social care trust to ensure they had a consultant nurse in mental health, learning disability, older people and dementia, and public health. “That is up 20 new consultant nurse roles,” he said.

Edwin Poots

Edwin Poots

He also highlighted efforts already underway to determine appropriate nurse staffing levels. An initiative, titled Delivering Care – Nurse Staffing Levels in Northern Ireland, aims to “set the policy direction for formulating the nurse staffing of a unit or area”, he said.

The work started with general and specialist medical and surgical wards. The findings have recently been approved by Mr Poots, but are yet to be published. The project has now moved on to look at staffing in emergency departments, district nursing and health visiting, with further work planned on mental health and learning disabilities.

“I am committed to ensuring that you have the resources required to do your job, whether that be numbers, education or IT solutions,” he told nurses attending the RCN event.

It follows a number of incidents this year highlighting the strain on the NHS in Northern Ireland, especially emergency services. A number of summits have been held in recent months between senior clinicians and ministers to seek a solution.

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