SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has called for urgent action to address the nursing shortage here after a recent NIAO report revealed that £115 million spent on temporary staffing last year.
The MLA for Foyle said: “For years I have been raising concern about this- not just the cost- but more importantly the impact on the capacity to deliver care, safe staffing levels and the impact of other nurses in terms of workforce and morale.
“It is important to remember that pre-covid, the nurses strike was not just about pay but rather safe staffing. This is a pre-existing problem, brought about by years of failures with workforce planning under previous executives.
“The pandemic demonstrated, not that it needed to, the importance of having a full cohort of staff. The service was forced to throw students and retirees onto the frontline just to bear the brunt of Covid-19. It was thanks to the Herculean efforts of health staff and swift actions of the public here that mitigated the potential impact of this crisis. But I shudder to think what would have happened had we been hit harder here.
“If the issue of resourcing can be tackled, it would solve a myriad of problems plaguing the health service, including the colossal waiting lists for consultant led appointments. Now considering a post-Covid context, it is critical we secure a long-term solution to our perennial nursing shortage and ensure staggering amounts of money are not frittered away on agency spend. We need to change how services are delivered which requires employing creative solutions as a matter of urgency.”