An additional 300 nursing and midwifery undergraduate places are to be secured in Northern Ireland this year, bringing the total to a new all-time high of 1,325.
Health Minister Robin Swann today confirmed that Executive funding is in place for such a move.
New Decade, New Approach set out a key priority of providing a further 900 pre-registration nursing and midwifery training places over a three year period, commencing in 2020/21.
This priority was reiterated in the framework agreement that led to the end of the recent Agenda for Change industrial dispute.
This additional 300 places results in a financial commitment of up to £2.4m in 2020/21.
Mr Swann said: “Last week I confirmed that I had made good on the promises to implement two annual pay increases for staff on Agenda for Change terms, including nurses and midwives.
“I am delighted to now confirm that the funding has been secured to increase the number of training places by 300 this year, as planned and agreed with trade union colleagues in January.
“The Department of Health also confirmed how the additional places will be allocated among Northern Ireland’s universities. Queen’s University is to be allocated 130 of the new places, with Ulster University receiving 105 places, and the Open University taking on 65.
“The new places are apportioned among the adult, children’s, mental health, learning disability and midwifery fields of practice.
The Minister said: “I trust this news will provide a boost to our hard-working nurses and midwives.
“This is another step along the path to ensuring that we have enough staff to meet the health and social care demands of Northern Ireland into the future. We are obviously not there yet, but we are heading in the right direction.”
The Department has also for the first time commissioned a graduate entry nursing programme to facilitate those whose who have already reached degree level in other fields.
It is working on Allied Health Professional and Clinical Psychology training commissioning options for 20/21.
Work is also proceeding on ensuring the required level of medical education is provided in Northern Ireland.