INMO warns of difficulty retaining trained nurses

Restrictive new hiring rules in the health service ‘could drive qualified nurses to UK’

Restrictive new hiring rules in the health service are hampering efforts to keep highly qualified nurses in Ireland, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Last December the HSE introduced a requirement for one staff member to leave before a new one could be recruited. In recent weeks, however, hospitals have further tightened these rules to “three out, one in” in response to increasing financial pressures.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the new restrictions were making it harder than ever for hospitals to recruit trained nurses. "The well is dry, and the fear now is that we'll lose a cadre of talented people to aggressive recruitment from the UK."

Within budget

A HSE spokesman denied any national policy was in place for further tightening recruitment, but added that hospital groups had been told to stay within budget and were taking whatever measures were required to achieve this.


Stephen McLarnon of Health Sector Job, which is organising a recruitment fair for Irish nurses this weekend, said the recruitment restrictions threatened to undo the good work done to encourage Irish nurses to return and work in the HSE.

“Hospitals have told us they can’t recruit, and they are very frustrated about that,” he said.

Up to 55 health employers from Ireland, the UK, Australia and Singapore are attending the Health Sector Jobs fair in the RDS. The exhibitors include NHS trusts which are offering relocation packages of up to €10,000 for Irish nurses to go to work in Britain.

The HSE has offered a €1,500 incentive to entice Irish nurses back from the UK, but so far only 83 nurses have been recruited under this scheme compared to a target of 500.

Mr McLarnon said many Irish nurses emigrated because their spouses lost jobs in the construction sector. While they were keen to return home, they were unlikely to do so overnight.


“There could be an exodus of freshly qualified student nurses heading overseas in a couple of months’ time, and this is despite Enda Kenny’s commitment that there would be jobs for all student nurses in Ireland if they wanted them.”

A number of larger teaching hospitals are attending the fair, including St Vincent’s in Dublin, which is offering salaries from €27,000 to €44,000, depending on a nurse’s years of experience.

The hospital is also offering overseas recruits the €1,500 relocation allowance, a 39-hour week, 24 days’ leave plus nine public holidays and flexible working policies.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.