DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health (Leo Varadkar)
by Deputy Anthony Lawlor
for ORAL ANSWER on 22/10/2015
To ask the Minister for Health if he is aware of staff shortages within the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, which is causing a backlog in the number of nursing applications being processed; his views that this is having a knock on effect on hospitals who desperately need to recruit nurses to deal with the overcrowding issue; his plans to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Anthony Lawlor T.D.
I am pleased to report that progress has been made in relation to the registration delays in the NMBI. To 13 October 2015, 1,495 applicants have been registered this year, the highest in many years, of which 758 were Irish-trained applicants. The number of applications received to 13 October this year is up 139% on the same period in 2014. I would like to advise the Deputy that, to 13 October, the number of people registered in 2015 was 1,495 and when this is compared to the same period in 2014, the number of people registered is 967 – this represents an increase of 55%.

The latest figures from the NMBI indicate that they have 1,980 open applications, of which:
· 1,348 have documentation outstanding (61%);
· 81 have been approved and a fee is awaited by the NMBI; and
· 168 further cases are waiting review.

The Department has approved the filling of 16 posts and temporary measures have been put in place to ensure all applications received are dealt with in a timely manner. NMBI informed the Department on the 24 September that there are currently no backlogs in processing the post.

Seven adaptation programmes have been held for the nursing home sector since 2014 in order to allow overseas nurses to register in Ireland. One adaption programme has commenced and a further programme is scheduled later in the year. I understand that five adaption programmes will be held in 2016. At 23 September 2015, some 405 places have been made available so far on these courses.

The NMBI has approved on a pilot basis, a new aptitude test with RCSI as an alternative method to assess candidates for registration. Nurses are currently being advised of the availability of this test and all who have a letter for adaptation are being contacted to advise them of this development. This test will be provided in November 2015 when a minimum cohort of 25 nurses is secured. Successful candidates will be recommended for registration to NMBI by RCSI.

On 8 October 2015, a new overseas call centre service was launched by NMBI in response to the significant increase in applications for registration from overseas nurses and midwives. NHI and other key stakeholders were informed of the new overseas call centre service on 7 October. The website has been updated to inform the wider audience. On 16 October 2015, 684 calls were received by this call centre.

With a recovering economy, the Health Service Executive is now in a position to offer full time jobs to nurses and midwives. There are many initiatives currently underway to improve nursing staff levels throughout the country. These include offering full time permanent contracts to the 2015 degree programme graduates. In addition, the conversion of agency usage to permanent staffing in line with agreed processes is a key objective of the National Service Plan 2015.

In July, the HSE launched an International Staff Nurse Recruitment Campaign which focused on the UK to attract Staff Nurses to jobs in Ireland. In this campaign, there was a particular emphasis on targeting Irish Nurses who have left Ireland in recent years and want to return home. The HSE is currently in the process of expanding this recruitment initiative outside the UK and Europe in order to fill service vacancies.