UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISON notes media reports today (15th May 2023) that the Department of Health intends to reduce the number of nursing student places in Northern Ireland by 300. Responding to this, UNISON Head of Bargaining and Representation Anne Speed, said:

‘‘UNISON will oppose a move to reduce nursing student places. Our members will be left deeply disappointed and frustrated by any reduction in graduate training places, when the clear message from them is that we need more nurses working within our health service to care for patients.

Vacancy rates across the health service remain high, particularly in nursing. A reduction in nursing student places is the opposite of what is needed to solve these longstanding issues. We cannot deal with major workforce issues and improve outcomes for the public without investing in developing the nurses that the health service needs.

We are calling for a full review of access for existing health staff and their take up through the Open University scheme. A new discussion on a possible creation of a Northern Ireland bespoke scheme for existing staff in social care services is urgently required. Such a move would begin to address a pressing need for enhanced career development for those already within the service and begin to address crisis level nursing shortages.

UNISON will be leading a delegation of health trade unions on Wednesday in a further meeting with the Secretary of State, following his budget announcement in the absence of an Executive and Assembly. We will make clear to the Secretary of State that he cannot withhold funding that should flow through the Barnett formula to the Department of Health for a decent pay offer for health workers here. We will also make it clear to him that proposals to reduce nurse training places are unacceptable and that our health service needs to be properly resourced.’’