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Sinn Féin urge action to prevent crisis in nursing

7 October, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, John O'Dowd MLA, has said that the publication of a survey by the Royal College of Nursing should act as a catalyst for the Department of Health to address long-standing concerns, which the nursing profession has expressed. The RCN survey suggests that one in four nurses in the Six Counties intend to leave their employer within the next two years.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"Nursing is a physically and emotionally demanding job. Indeed, a departmental survey some time ago confirmed that nurses in the Six Counties deal with more patients than their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales. At a meeting which I held with representatives of the Royal College of Nursing within the past week, it was clear that nurses here have very real and long-standing concerns which the Department of Health must address as a matter of urgency.

"The RCN has made it clear to the Department of Health that if the issue of recruitment and retention of nursing staff is not sorted out, then there is a real danger that the modernisation and improvement of services for patients will be hampered.

"Among those issues which Sinn Féin believes the Department needs to address are the lack of child-care support for pre-registration nursing students, the failure to prioritise improvements in nurses' pay and conditions under Agenda for Change, and the government's intention to raise the retirement age for nurses to 65 while at the same time attempting to remove nurses' final salary pension scheme.

"Sinn Féin would urge the Department and the NIO health minister, Shaun Woodward, to work with the Royal College of Nursing in order to fully address nurses' concerns. Key to solving the recruitment and retention problem will be to provide nurses with a pay, conditions and career package, which is both competitive and attractive. Strenuous efforts must be made to ensure that there are more flexible ways for students to enter into nursing and to also ensure that the health service is an attractive and fulfilling place for nurses to work.." ENDS

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