All student nurses should be paid if doing work of staff, Tánaiste says

Donnelly says any allowance increases after review will be paid from January

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin in the ongoing controversy about pay for student nurses and midwives. Photograph: iStock

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin in the ongoing controversy about pay for student nurses and midwives. Photograph: iStock


Student nurses and midwives who are doing the work of staff nurses should be paid for their efforts “and that includes those in first, second and third year”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.

But he hit out at the Opposition over a Dáil motion calling for student nurses and midwives to be paid, which the Government rejected.

Mr Varadkar said it was “party politics, it was non-binding, it was unfunded. If it had passed it would not have been worth a single euro to a single student nurses.

“It was designed to make the Government look bad, the Opposition look good and do nothing at all for student nurses.”

He said “public pay is not ever voted on in the Dáil but negotiated between the Government and the trade unions and negotiations are underway for the next pay deal”.

Mr Varadkar was responding to Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty in the ongoing controversy about pay for student nurses and midwives.

Earlier Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil that a short-term review is under way on the allowances paid student nurses in first to third year and any increase in allowance will be paid from January.

A longer-term review is underway into payment of fourth year students who work in their final year and are paid for 36 weeks between €21,000 and €22,000.

He also said he had instigated a complete review of the clinical placements in hospitals in the wake of intensifying controversy about student nurses and midwives being asked to do “inappropriate tasks”.

Mr Donnelly said he was taking “deadly seriously” the allegations had been made about students in first, second and third year working while on placement.

He told Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane he had “instigated a whole review” and will meet the HSE’s director of nursing tonight. “If there are serious breaches found they will be dealt with,” he said.

Mr Donnelly’s comments follow confirmation by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil on Wednesday that the Minister was investigating claims by opposition TDs who have received hundreds of emails that students from first year onwards have had to work in wards.

During leaders’ questions Mr Doherty claimed that the Taoiseach “sought to set nurses against nurses by claiming that student nurses are being exploited by other nurses on hospital work.

“That is not true but they are plugging the gaps in a health system that is under pressure,” and they deserved adequate remuneration for their work.

Mr Varadkar said that in degree programmes students did not get paid for placements.

“However I do think that where student nurses are acting up, where they’re filling in for a staff nurse, where they’re doing the work of a staff nurse because a ward or clinical area is understaffed, well I do think they should be paid for that quite frankly.

He said it happened for student teachers who sometimes got paid when they supervised or took over for an absent teacher.

“I think in those circumstances it is absolutely right that student nurses should be paid for that work that they do. That includes those in first year, second year and third year.”

That is an issue that the Government is engaging on and will speak to the INMO and Siptu, he said.

Mr Doherty rejected the Tanaiste’s crticisms that the Opposition was “playing politics” in the motion calling for students nurses to be paid. He said the Dáil motion was a “clear message” that students who put themselves at risk should not be expected to work and not be paid for it.

Mr Varadkar said that Sinn Féin had nothing to do with the motion which was instigated by People Before Profit but his party now wanted to take it over for political gain.