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  1. ITV Report

NI to recruit 600 nurses from Philippines amid shortage

More than 600 nurses are to be recruited from the Philippines to try to alleviate pressure caused by the chronic nursing shortage in Northern Ireland.

The health service is running on a shortage of 1,500 nurses - 10% below capacity.

Looking overseas for staff is one of the measures being taken to try to address the problem.

Others include a programme to encourage nurses who are out of practice to return to the profession and a programme to encourage nurse retention.

A pilot scheme is also to be introduced that would see admin staff taking on administrative work that nurses are currently having to do.

This year is going to be difficult in terms of nurse recruitment, but hopefully from then on in, we will start to see light at the end of the tunnel.

We just need to get through this difficult stage.

– Professor Charlotte McArdle, NI chief nursing officer

Northern Ireland’s chief nursing officer, Charlotte McArdle, says the problem arose because the supply from undergraduate recruitment has not kept up with demand and an ageing workforce.

She added that overseas recruitment is only intended as an interim measure.

“The answer for us is to grow our own workforce,” Professor McArdle told the Press Association.

“We can't be reliant on other places to do that for us. The overseas programme is an interim step to help balance things while we get to the other side.”

She added that there were not a lot of nurses coming from the EU and said possible concerns for such nurses regarding their future after Brexit would have to be considered.

“I fully recognise that staffing levels are a source of great concern to nurses,” Professor McArdle said.

“I want to assure them - and the public - that the issue is being actively addressed on a number of important levels.”

We are hoping to recruit 622 nurses - mainly from the Philippines, with some from India - by 2020.

We have a history with the Philippines, and to a lesser extent India, from the last shortage around 2000.

– Professor Charlotte McArdle, NI chief nursing officer