Dáil Éireann - Volume 649 - 11 March, 2008
Written Answers. - Health Service Staff.
Deputy Michael Ring Deputy Michael Ring
Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it is necessary for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to have to undergo a six week adaptation and assessment period before being registered here. [10177/08]
Deputy Mary Harney Deputy Mary Harney
Deputy Mary Harney: An Bord Altranais has statutory responsibility for the registration of nurses under the Nurses Act, 1985 and the necessity for an individual to undergo a period of adaptation and assessment is solely a matter for An Bord. I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that An Bord must process each application  thoroughly to ensure that all those entered on the Register of Nurses are deemed professionally qualified and competent for such registration. The protection of the public underpins this process.
Given the statutory functions of An Bord Altranais and its independence in this regard, it would not be appropriate for me as Minister to comment on the reason behind the specific requirements set by it. I am satisfied that the Board discharges its functions in a professional manner.
Deputy Richard Bruton Deputy Richard Bruton
Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the work to date on identifying reform in the area of nursing and areas of potential for new responsibility to be taken; if she expects it will be possible to develop an agreed set of proposals that could be submitted to the benchmarking body which indicated in its recent report that it would be premature to make an award to nurses until solid workable proposals had been put in place; if she is confident that sufficient progress is being made to avoid the re-emergence of industrial action that could damage the health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10182/08]
Deputy Mary Harney Deputy Mary Harney
Deputy Mary Harney: Expanding the role of nurses and midwives is an ongoing process as the professions develop to meet the needs of the population. An Bord Altranais’s Scope of Practice for Nursing and Midwifery provides a framework to enable role expansion. Developments in recent years have included moving from a 3 year diploma to a 4 year honours degree programme to educate new nurses, the creation of Clinical Nurse Specialist and Advanced Nurse Practitioner posts, the introduction of nurse prescribing and expansion of nursing and midwifery led services.
During the recent Benchmarking process the unions set out details of an expansion of the role and referred to an increase in activity and complexity in the work of nurses. The Benchmarking Body noted in its report that such developments are part of the general evolution of the role of nurses and, in common with other groups, had been taken into account in the job evaluation exercise conducted by the Body which assesses the current roles and job sizes of grades and thus reflects changes which have taken place since the first Benchmarking exercise. The Body noted that the desirability of further expanding the role of nurses was referred to in an aspirational manner only. The Body stated that as a general principle its recommendations “must be based on the job of public service grades as they now exist and it would not be possible to recommend increases on the basis of possible future changes”. The Body went on to say that developments could impact on the role and job size of nurses which would be reflected in a future evaluation of their jobs.
The Benchmarking Body has completed its work in accordance with its terms of reference and issued its report. Accordingly, the suggestion that agreed proposals on further role expansion would be submitted to the Body does not arise. It should be noted the Benchmarking Body recommended increases of between 6.8% and 10% for approximately 1,800 of the more senior nurses. I understand that two nursing unions who are dissatisfied with the Benchmarking report have requested the Labour Court to re-examine certain pay claims.
In relation to the maintenance of industrial peace there are ongoing contacts between officials and the nursing unions. In recent months local discussions have been underway across all health agencies on arrangements for the introduction of 37.5 hour week for nurses and midwives on a cost neutral and non-diminution of service basis. The Commission to examine how a 35 hour week for nurses and midwives can be introduced will commence its work later  this month under the chairmanship of Professor Tom Collins. Nursing unions are represented on the Commission which is due to report before the end of this year.
The nursing unions have recently been consulted on the proposals contained within the proposed new Nurses and Midwives Bill. Health service employers remain available to discuss any proposals for further role expansion from the nursing unions which are in line with the modernisation programmes under national agreements and the HSE’s Transformation Programme. Given a willingness on all sides to deal with issues in a constructive manner, I do not foresee the re-emergence of industrial action by nursing unions in 2008.
Dáil Éireann 649 Written Answers. Health Service Staff.