€10 million Irish Government investment creates 250 student nursing and midwifery places in NI

The one-year plan would address a shortfall in student places for the 2023/24 academic year resulting from the budgetary crisis at Stormont Credit: PA

Stormont health authorities have welcomed an Irish government plan to fund 250 student nursing and midwifery places in Northern Ireland universities.

The one-year plan would address a shortfall in student places for the 2023/24 academic year resulting from the budgetary crisis at Stormont.

Senior civil servants at Stormont, who are currently running public services in Northern Ireland in the absence of devolution, are facing a funding black hole running into hundreds of millions of pounds this year.

Stormont’s Department of Health had cut 300 student nursing places for the coming academic year as part of a series of cost-cutting measures.

The proposed intervention from Irish health minister Stephen Donnelly will address much of that shortfall.

The plan reported on Saturday would see a 10-million-euro investment creating 200 undergraduate places for Republic of Ireland students and 50 places for Northern Ireland students at Queen’s and Ulster University.

Commenting on the proposal, a spokeswoman for Stormont’s Department of Health said: “The Department of Health welcomes this planned one-year arrangement which will help maintain the current training infrastructure for pre-registration nurse training, ahead of an intended future increase in NI-funded places in the event of additional funding being available.

“A proportion of the nursing and midwifery training places being funded will be students from Northern Ireland.

“In addition, the NI health service will benefit from the fact students with ROI-funded nursing and midwifery training places in NI universities will do practical training here, making a vital contribution to care for patients.

“All those graduating from ROI-funded places will be free to take up employment in the NI health service if that is their preferred option.

“This planned one-year funding arrangement will be an important practical step in fostering future collaboration across the island of Ireland in the important area of healthcare training which will be to the mutual benefit of our healthcare systems.”

In a statement the Department for Health in the Republic said: "Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, TD has made clear the imperative for Ireland to double our number of healthcare graduates, across all disciplines.

"We can confirm that the Department has been engaged in this regard with the third level sector, and all other stakeholders, across the island.

"As part of this work the Department of Health has come to an agreement with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland that will result in 200 nursing places this year for students from the Republic.

"This will support Northern Ireland’s objective of preserving their training capacity and is a sign of what can be achieved through all island cooperation."

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