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Loss of staff damaging health service

2 June, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd, has said that the loss of frontline staff is damaging the health service and called on the NIO minister for health to take urgent and immediate steps to stop the drain of highly qualified personnel away from the health service.

Mr O'Dowd made his call following the release of figures by the DHSSPS showing, that in the year from October 2003 to September 2004, a total of 4,217 staff left the health service - representing over 7% of the total workforce (excluding temporary staff and home helps). 28% of all leavers were from the Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting group or 1170 members of staff, of which 47% were part-time workers. 62% of all leavers were under 40. This ranged from 83% for Medical and Dental to 11% for Works and Maintenance. As a percentage of staff in post (September 2004) the Medical and Dental group had the highest percentage of leavers at 15% followed by the Ancillary and General Group at 13%.

Mr O'Dowd said: "There are serious problems in not only recruiting skilled staff but also in the Department's ability to retain valuable, skilled personnel.

"Those in charge at the Department need to urgently examine these leaving trends. Many will find it astounding that 28%, or 1,170 of all those who left the health service during the year October 03 - September 04, were from the nursing sector. The nursing professions have often been described as the backbone of the health service, yet here is a situation where over a quarter of all those who left the health service during this twelve month period, came from these vital front-line staff.

"This is one of the key reasons that our health service is facing such a crisis. The loss of staff is damaging our health service. The new health minister, Shaun Woodward, needs to establish the reasons behind this level of draining away of vital personnel and begin to take immediate corrective action.

Highlighting the fact that 76% of all leavers were female, and that 62% of all leavers were under 40 years of age, O Dowd added:

"It is obvious that many are no longer prepared to work in a health system that cannot or does not want to offer family friendly hours, or adequate financial rewards. I also believe that the Equality Commission should also examine these patterns for those leaving work within the health services, as there are clearly broader issues to be addressed." ENDS

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