Short-term cuts to nursing training will have disastrous long-term implications – Chambers

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Short-term cuts to nursing training will have disastrous long-term implications – Chambers

Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Alan Chambers has labelled the short-term decision to cut the number of nursing and midwifery training places in Northern Ireland as disastrous.  The North Down MLA has warned that whilst it may save a small sum of money in the short term, it’s going to inflict huge financial damage and a major workforce shortfall in three years’ time whenever the nurses should have been graduating and entering the local profession.

Alan Chambers said:


“The decision to cut the number of training places locally was not taken because it was the right or sensible thing to do. Instead, it’s a short-term decision only happening because of the absence of a local Executive and Ministers that will have disastrous long-term implications.


“Over a decade ago there was an incredibly foolish and damaging decision taken to reduce nurse training positions. The impact of that is still being felt to this day. There are thousands of vacant nursing posts and as a result of enough new nurses not being allowed to graduate the cost and reliance on agency workers subsequently went through the roof.


“In early January 2020 on the restoration of the Executive the UUP made ending the then industrial dispute it’s first priority. Within three days of holding office, Robin Swann had not only restored pay parity but he also secured the Executive’s support to fund training the highest ever number of nurses and midwives. And for the near three years the UUP held the Health Ministry, over 1,300 were trained each year. The first cohort of those additional nurses will be graduating shortly and with the pressures on the health service they can’t come soon enough.


“Yet it was always clear that this increased intake needed to be maintained for longer than just 3 years if we were to sustainably get on top of the workforce challenges. Unfortunately however, this latest decision is an example of history repeating itself, despite the disastrous consequences being known.


“Following the deliberate collapse of the Executive last year, patients were cruelly robbed of the greatest funding certainty the health service locally had for a decade. Whilst it was unforgiveable then, the harm and damage that has since been inflicted has been horrifying.  The cut to nurse training positions is only one of many such examples.


“If there were an Executive in place, if Northern Ireland had a Minister of Health, if there was a Health Committee meeting at Stormont I am certain – absolutely certain – that this decision would not have been taken. Yet not for the first time, the selfish and narrowed-minded actions of one of the political parties locally are continuing to hold Northern Ireland to ransom.


“This is a foolish decision, and one that sadly the patients and health workers across Northern Ireland are going to be left paying a much greater price for over many years to come.”