Embattled NHS plans to have 100 trainee nurses on wards within year
The overstretched health service is to benefit from 100 extra nurses who will start training this year and will be on hospital wards within 12 months of commencing their studies.
The 15% rise in the number of student nurses will be introduced in line with a new taskforce to oversee the future of nursing and midwifery across the region over the next 10 to 15 years, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said yesterday.
The bulk of the pre-registration nurse training places - 75 of them - will begin at Queen's University and the Ulster University this September, and participants will receive full tuition fee support in addition to an annual bursary.
Study for the remaining 25 places, geared toward staff already employed in the health service who are keen to take up nursing, will be undertaken with the Open University.
While the training will last three years, the student nurses will be on wards during their first year.
The new nursing places come after 645 pre-registration nursing places were announced earlier this year, bringing the total annual number of student nurses to 745.
"This increase in training places, which will take commissions over the 700 mark for the first time since 2009, will be warmly welcomed by the many individuals who I know wish to pursue a career in nursing," said Mr Hamilton, who added that he made the announcement in light of "a rising demand for nurses across the health system".
Stating that nurses were "central to the delivery of safe, effective and compassionate care", the minister said: "Even though we have increased the number of frontline nurses and midwives by 1,200 in the past four-and-a-half years, I recognise that the demand for nurses continues to rise.
"I am deeply impressed by the quality of care provided by our nurses, and of the pre-registration training provided by our partner universities."
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the announcements were a recognition of nurses' contribution to the health system but also called for an independent review on nursing.
The RCN's Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said: "The nursing profession is facing unprecedented pressure and the RCN believes that an independently chaired review group is urgently required.
"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."