International nursing recruitment campaign on target, Department of Health insists
HEALTH chiefs are insisting a campaign to recruit more than 600 overseas nurses to Northern Ireland to tackle massive staff shortages is "on course" to succeed - despite meeting just 15 per cent of its target in two years.
Last autumn, The Irish News revealed that more than £560,000 had been spent on the recruitment drive - the first of its kind in a decade - following its launch in 2016.
Italy, Greece, Romania, India and the Philippines were visited by 37 health trust staff in its first year in an attempt to drive down rocketing bills on agency staff.
The north's health trusts are currently short of almost 1,500 nurses.
When asked to provide figures on the number of foreign nurses successfully recruited and who were now working in the north's health service, the department confirmed a total of 98 individuals were working in hospitals.
An additional 32 were working as healthcare assistants as they had their registration pending with the regulator in London, the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
"The project remains on course to meet the target of 622 nurses working in the Health and Social Care service by March 2020, as planned," a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said.
She added: "There were 1,409 nursing vacancies as at December 31, which represents a vacancy rate of per cent of 8.2 per cent.This has resulted in expensive use of agency nurses, which the department recognise as unsustainable."
Earlier this month a multi-million investment toward the creation of almost 100 new trainee nursing university places was announced.
The department pledged to inject £5m, which will lead to an additional 74 undergraduate nurses and 25 student midwives.
It means there will be a total of 1,000 student nurses in Northern Ireland in 2018/19, after years of successive cuts to trainee places.