Too many nurses leaving profession in Northern Ireland, warns RCN
Nursing leaders have warned that health bosses must do more to stem the flow of staff leaving the profession in Northern Ireland.
Figures released today have revealed 8,000 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are now registered to work in the UK, compared to 12 months ago.
The number of newly registered nurses in Northern Ireland is also up, from 788 in March 2017 to 850 in March this year, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) document. However, Pat Cullen from the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, said: "The latest registration figures from the NMC illustrate the continuing pressures on the nursing workforce and the impact of this on nurses.
"Whilst there has been a welcome increase over the last year in the number of newly-qualified nurses in Northern Ireland, this is still offset by the numbers leaving.
"Given that we have around 2,100 vacant registered nursing posts in the health service, and a similar level in nursing homes, the increase will not make a significant impact upon this level of unfilled posts.
"It is extremely upsetting to see the number of nurses leaving the register because of the pressure of their work and resulting high levels of stress."
Ms Cullen said the disparity in pay between nurses in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is making it increasingly difficult to retain newly-qualified nurses here, and to recruit the overseas nurses required to bolster the workforce.
She continued: "The RCN (Royal College of Nursing) is this week beginning a programme of public meetings to explain to the people of Northern Ireland the staffing and pay crisis in our health service. These figures illustrate the gravity of this situation."
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle welcomed the NMC report findings.
"There is a continued increase in the number of registered nurses joining the register for the first time with Northern Ireland addresses as well as a continued reduction in the number of nurses leaving the register," she said.
"This means there are 1,452 more registered nurses on the NMC register in Northern Ireland than there were in 2015.
"Our health and social care system is under pressure and this means staff do an incredible job, sometimes under very challenging circumstances, to provide good quality care and treatment to the population of Northern Ireland.
"The Department notes the number of respondents to the NMC leavers questionnaire who stated they left nursing because of the pressures they experienced."
Ms McArdle said the department has implemented a number of initiatives to address this, including funding increases for undergraduate nursing and training places.
She said: "This year will see an all-time high in the number of learning disability, mental health, children's, adult nursing and midwifery students commencing their careers in our universities."
Ms McArdle said this is a demonstration of the value the Department places on providing highly trained graduate nurses and midwives.
She added: "Nursing and midwifery remain very highly-regarded professions in Northern Ireland, attracting over six applications for each available space on the pre-registration training programmes commissioned by the Department from the local universities.
"In addition, the rates of attrition from these programmes are amongst the lowest in the UK."