Bursaries for student nurses and midwives to continue, insists health minister
Northern Ireland's health minister has ruled out scrapping bursaries for student nurses.
Unions and charities have branded plans to overhaul the finances surrounding training in England as reckless.
Michelle O'Neill said she would not be following the example of her counterpart across the water.
"I am very proud of our local nursing and midwifery staff and I think it is entirely right that we continue to support our student nurses through their pre-registration training and therefore I am happy to confirm that I have no intention of going down the route being followed in England.
"Bursary support for student nurses and midwives will continue."
Ministers plan to change the system in England in September 2017 and charge those studying to be front-line health workers for their degrees.
While the Government said it would create thousands more training places Ms O'Neill said her Stormont Health Department had already increased the number of students for 2016/17 by over 100.
She told the Assembly: "I am committed to maintaining that level at the minimum in 17/18 but I am also considering options for ever further increasing that as I develop my department's budget for the coming year."
In Northern Ireland eligible students may have their fees paid for the duration of the three-year degree by the Department of Health.
Students applying for a pre-registration nursing or direct entry midwifery course in Northern Ireland may also be eligible for a Health and Social Care (HSC) bursary.
This is intended to assist with daily living costs incurred during training and is awarded for each year of the three-year course.
According to the Royal College of Nursing In Northern Ireland, the 'Care in Crisis' report found that non-UK nationals accounted for a quarter of the independent registered nursing workforce.
A number of providers indicated that they are planning further recruitment of registered nurses from Europe and further overseas.
Given the current overall shortage of nurses and the information provided during and after this survey, the indications are that the number of registered nurses who are non-UK nationals will increase, the Royal College added.