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Northern Ireland nursing homes face workforce ‘crisis’


The staff vacancy rate for nursing homes in Northern Ireland is currently around 15% of the total workforce, leading the Royal College of Nursing to warn of a recruitment and retention “crisis”.

RCN Northern Ireland has published a report, in which it reveals latest survey results on the independent sector nursing workforce.

“The independent nursing home sector is in crisis”

Janice Smyth

The survey was issued to each registered nursing home in Northern Ireland, four hospices and the country’s three main independent hospitals. Responses were collected between May and July 2015.

At the time of the survey, the independent sector in Northern Ireland had 12,008 nursing home beds, 121 independent hospital beds and 65 hospice beds.

Analysis shows that, within the 85% of facilities that responded to the survey, there were currently 1,726 registered nurses employed full-time and 1,016 registered nurses employed part-time.

The RCN said one of the aims of the survey was to establish the extent of the nursing recruitment and retention “challenge”.

The research showed that 72.1% of facilities reported vacancies that equated to 374 whole-time registered nurse positions.

The majority of reported vacancies, 341, were within nursing homes and represented 15.1% of the total nursing home workforce. In addition, 41% of the positions had been vacant for longer than six months.

However, independent hospitals and hospices did not report significant recruitment and retention difficulties, said the RCN report (see attached PDF, below).

It said the survey results “confirmed” that private nursing homes were having “severe difficulty” recruiting and retaining nurses. In turn, this was “challenging their ability to deliver a sustainable service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society”, warned the college.

Janice Smyth, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, claimed the country’s independent nursing home sector was “in crisis”.

Janice Smyth

Janice Smyth

Janice Smyth

“The sector is facing a significant threat from under-funding and an inability to recruit and retain the required number of registered nurses,” she said.

“The independent sector is the sole provider of nursing home care for over 12,000 people in Northern Ireland, yet its nursing workforce requirements have never been addressed when determining the number of nurses required as part of regional workforce planning,” said Ms Smyth.

She added: “We simply do not have enough nurses in Northern Ireland and, despite significant efforts by the independent sector to recruit staff, they cannot retain them as they are being constantly recruited by health and social care trusts.”

She said warnings about financial viability and nursing shortages in the sector had been “ignored”, leading to the recent closure of homes and fears these may be “the first of many”.

Ms Smyth described the fee for the provision of nursing home care as “totally inadequate to cover the complex needs of patients in nursing homes”.

“Urgent action is required to if we are to sustain this sector and safeguard the quality and safety of care provided to thousands of vulnerable people,” she said.


Readers' comments (2)

  • It would assist the independent sector care homes if the trust stopped offering ludicrous incentives and bonus joining payments to nurses when they themselves can't afford are they able to offer what they haven't got?

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  • One main issue in Northern Ireland is the regulator RQIA preventing skilled carers from supporting nurses with advanced skills (care / assistant practitioner role)! Wake up regulator

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