Chief Nursing Officer pays tribute to staff and outlines workforce plans

Date published: 15 January 2018

Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle has detailed a series of important initiatives to increase the nursing workforce in Northern Ireland.


The CNO also paid tribute to the work of nurses and other staff who continue to provide a first class service throughout the significant pressures being faced on a daily basis by the Health and Social Care system.

Speaking about the nursing workforce Charlotte said: “As Chief Nursing Officer, I want to place on record my thanks to all staff who have been working tirelessly in the face of extremely challenging circumstances and for their continuing hard work and resilience.

“I also wish to pay tribute to the unwavering professionalism, commitment and dedication that has been so evident over the recent period of unprecedented pressures.”

Referring to staffing issues CNO added: “I fully recognise that staffing levels are a source of great concern to nurses. I want to assure them - and the public - that the issue is being actively addressed on a number of important levels.

“The challenge is by no means unique to Northern Ireland – there is a nursing shortage right across these islands and there are no quick solutions – it takes three full years to train our high calibre graduate professional nurses.

“The Department of Health along with HSC colleagues are driving forward a series of important workforce measures and initiatives including:

  • Increased Investment in nurse students places. The Department has substantially increased the number of pre-registration nursing student places funded annually from local universities over recent years. This has been grown progressively from a baseline of 650 places per annum in 2014/15 to 901 by 2017/18. This represents an increase of 38.6% and an additional investment by the Department of £9.5m per year.
  • International Nurse Recruitment. A campaign commenced in May 2016 and is on course to meet the target of recruiting 622 nurses by March 2020.
  • Regional Recruitment and Retention. A regional nursing recruitment group is leading work to streamline recruitment processes and encourage nurse retention. This includes regular contact with nursing students to promote job opportunities and the benefits of a career here.
  • Return to Practice Programmes. The Department is funding the fees for the Return to Nursing practice programme delivered by Ulster University - to encourage nurses who are out of practice to return to the profession.
  • Delivering Care Policy: The Department’s Delivering Care; Nurse Staffing in Northern Ireland is the agreed policy framework to ensure safe staffing levels across different settings. An investment of £12 million has increased nurse staffing levels in acute hospital wards. 
  • HSC Workforce Strategy: The Department is finalising a major new Workforce Strategy aligned with the “Delivering Together” HSC transformation roadmap.  This new strategy will outline a number of actions which will support our people to deliver world class health and social care. 
  • Investment in Post registration Education: The Department invested £7.6 million in 2017/2018 for post registration nursing and midwifery education and training. This investment is key to delivering transformational change, by enabling nurses to develop their practice and acquire specialist knowledge and skills for new and innovative roles. Advanced Nurse Practitioners for example, are being trained to work alongside GPs and ED consultants to assess, diagnose and treat patients in a similar way to doctors.”

Concluding Charlotte said: “The health service is vitally important to all of us, and every single day great care is delivered by superb staff. But the system is under pressure and staff are being asked to work harder and harder in difficult circumstances. The way services are organised is out of date and not delivering the way we want it to and therefore existing capacity cannot meet the ever-rising demand. Transformation of health and social care is the answer, and indeed is the only way forward – our nursing staff have a pivotal role to play in driving this change forward and I have every confidence that they will continue to step up and play their part in delivering this.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. On 25 October 2016, the then Minister of Health, Michelle O’Neill launched an ambitious 10 year approach to transforming health and social care “Health and Wellbeing 2026: Delivering Together” This report gives a summary of progress one year on.
  2. It seeks to radically reform the way services are accessed with a focus on person centred care rather than the current emphasis on buildings and structures.
  3. The Chief Nursing Officer, Charlotte McArdle has been tasked by the ‘Delivering Together’ Transformation Implementation Group to develop a guide to support co-production across our Health and Social Care (HSC) system. 
  4. Nursing and Midwifery Taskgroup: this Group focusses on the need to produce a report with recommendations for maximisation of contribution of nursing and midwifery to improving outcomes for the population. The report and its recommendations should be produced at end of March 2018.
  5. For media queries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 90 520575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt

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