Dáil Éireann - Volume 594 - 02 December, 2004
Written Answers. - Hospital Staff.
Mr. Noonan Mr. Noonan
56. Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the age profile of the existing nursing staff in psychiatry (details supplied); the steps being taken to remedy this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31766/04]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Ms Harney: The Government recognises that the age profile of the psychiatric nursing workforce is increasing and is conscious of the need to provide for the future needs of mental health services as existing staff retire. The final report of the nursing and midwifery resource group, Towards Workforce Planning, 2002, projected that, by 2007, over 65% of psychiatric nurses would be over 45 years of age. However, this report is based on nurses on the psychiatric division of the register maintained by An Bord Altranais, ABA, rather than those actually in employment in the public health service. For instance, there are almost 9,300 nurses on the psychiatric division of the register of nurses — active — while there are just over 5,000 whole-time equivalent psychiatric nurses — over 5,400 individual psychiatric nurses — in the public health service.
Psychiatric nurses who joined the health service before 1 April 2004 are eligible to retire at age 55. My officials have estimated that around 11% — 550 psychiatric WTE nurses — of the current workforce would be eligible to retire by the end of 2007. The Government has been conscious of the need to increase the domestic supply of nurses across all disciplines, to replace staff who retire and to provide for the development of services. In 2005, over €85 million in revenue funding will be spent on undergraduate nurse training. Since 1998 the Government has increased the number student nurse places across all disciplines by 60%. There is now an annual intake of 1,640 student nurses, of which 343 are training specifically to be psychiatric nurses. It is estimated that even with an attrition rate at the higher end of the spectrum — 15% — over 2,600 psychiatric nurses will graduate over the next ten years and this resource will meet the demand for additional  nurses. It is expected that limited numbers of overseas nurses will continue to seek employment in mental health services in addition to the domestic supply of nurses.
It should also be noted that there is a pilot project under way to introduce the health care assistant, HCA, grade into mental health services. The introduction of HCAs into mental health services will assist psychiatric nurses to more effectively utilise their professional skills.
Dáil Éireann 594 Written Answers. Hospital Staff.