A new £2.1 million education and training investment to boost the health service workforce in Northern Ireland has been announced by Health Minister Robin Swann.
The package includes 1,335 nursing and midwifery university places for 2022/23, as well as additional medical specialty and allied health profession (AHP) training posts.
Mr Swann said: “I am very pleased to make this announcement and to be able to confirm, on International Nurses Day, the 1,335 total for pre-registration nursing and midwifery training places – the highest annual number we have ever commissioned.
This represents a vital investment in the nursing and midwifery workforce of tomorrowRobin Swann
“Nursing and midwifery university places were maintained at a record high total of 1,325 in the past two years.
“This year, despite ongoing budgetary pressures and uncertainty, we are able to maintain that figure and indeed increase it by another 10.
“To put this into context, the total in 2015/16 was 710, which means it has increased by 88% since then.”
He added: “This represents a vital investment in the nursing and midwifery workforce of tomorrow.
“As we mark International Nurses Day, we are very grateful for the amazing contribution they make every day and are very aware of the current pressures they face.
“Sustained investment in education and training is essential to the rebuilding of our health and social care system.”
The £2.1 million education and training package includes expansion of medical specialty training posts, and an additional 41 AHP training posts this year.
In addition, a further 44 nurses will be recruited under the International Nurse Recruitment Programme.
The £2.1 million package will be funded through re-purposing of existing education and training budget lines.
The expansion in medical training programmes includes two additional clinical oncology places, three medical oncology places, two radiology places and one paediatric cardiology place.
Two additional places are also being provided in vascular surgery, and one each in transplant surgery, palliative medicine and dermatology.
Also included are 10 training additional places on the diagnostic radiography training programme commissioned from Ulster University as well as investment in medical physics with the training of three clinical scientists and technologists.
The other AHP training expansion for 2022 comprises 10 places in physiotherapy, 10 occupational therapy; three podiatry, five speech and language therapy, and three dietetics.
In addition, funding will be provided by the Department of Health and health and social care trusts, on a 50:50 basis, to make up to 50 additional places available in the intake to the Northern Ireland Medical Foundation Programme in 2022/23.