Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's nurse training programmes face 58% cut in funding

'Drastic long-term impact on health care' warning

By Sue Doherty

Specialist training programmes for nurses in Northern Ireland are being hit with a £1.8 million cut in funding.

The 58% funding cuts apply to advanced courses for nurses at both the University of Ulster and Queen's, with courses for district nurses and school nurses most likely to be affected.

The two universities and the Unite trade union warned that the cuts will have a "drastic long-term impact" on health care.

A spokeswoman for the University of Ulster said staff and management there are "extremely disappointed" at the cuts, which are "counterintuitive" at a time when resources are meant to be going to frontline services.

The spokeswoman said: "We are extremely disappointed with the Department of Health decision to cut Ulster University’s budget allocation for post-registration education in relation to nursing and allied health professions by 58 per cent.

"This equates to a cut in excess of £1 million which is vital to the training and continued development of the future nursing and health care workforce."

She continued: "At a time where budgets are being prioritised to divert resources in support of frontline services, this decision to cut the budget for critical professional healthcare courses is counterintuitive and will have long term implications for the development of the skills needed to deliver safe and effective patient care."

The university is seeking an urgent meeting with the department while considering the impact of the budget cut which will "have immediate implications for a number of specialist post-registration courses", the spokeswoman concluded.

'Added pressure on existing staff'

Kevin McAdam, Unite Regional Officer for the health sector said the cuts will "increase the pressure on existing staff and their current heavy workload and will impact on the delivery of community care".

He added: "This is a short-term savings cut that will have a drastic long-term impact on the most vulnerable in society who need treatment in their own homes."

The cuts, the union said, will affect the already "very low" number of school nurses and "redouble difficulties already faced in recruitment and retention of health visitors".

'Very difficult decisions'

A spokesman from the department of health said the cuts are the result of "very difficult decisions" that had to be made in the "current financial climate".

The spokesman said: "The Department of health recognises the importance of investing in the continued education and training of the nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professionals (AHP) workforce.

"The current financial climate has necessitated taking very difficult decisions to balance the very many demands and considerations of the wider health and social care system within the constraints of the financial resource available.

"The available budget for nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professional education and training for 17/18 has been prioritised to fund areas of clinical practice that are strategically important and which minimise impact on direct care," the spokesman concluded.

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