Report defends nursing pay and rejects claims of an exodus from health system

Salaries for nurses and midwives remain competitive, according to spending review by Martin Wall in todays Irish Times

There has been no mass exodus of nursing staff from the health system, the Government’s spending review argues. It also maintains that pay for nurses and midwives in the State is competitive.

The document, drawn up by the Department of Public Expenditure, says outflows of nurses and midwives from the public health system are “modest in both an Irish labour market context, and compared internationally”.

The paper contends international evidence suggests nursing and midwifery remuneration is “high comparatively” and that “inflows into the nursing and midwifery grades remain strong indicating a continued attractiveness as a career choice”.

The department’s paper comes as the Public Service Pay Commission is finalising a review of recruitment and retention difficulties in the health services which nurses have maintained are linked to pay issues .

Pay

It says, based on exchange rates, new entrant nurses in Ireland earn 21 per cent more in basic pay than in the English NHS. It also cites OECD nursing pay data which it says puts Irish nursing pay (including allowances and premium pay) on a par with Australia and higher than New Zealand, Canada and the UK over the last decade.

The report maintains that 82 per cent of all nurses and midwives are on basic salaries of more than €40,000 and that when allowances or premium payments are included, this is “estimated to contribute an additional 20per cent on top of basic salary”.

The review states that whether retirements are included or excluded, overall turnover rate of nursing and midwifery staff is low and well within normal parameters. Moreover, it also notes that there has been a 10.5 per cent increase – or a rise of 3,560 – in full-time equivalent nurses and midwives since the recruitment moratorium was lifted in 2014.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, described the document as “wildly inaccurate to the point of being grossly misleading”.

“This report represents a department in denial. If any of it were true why did the HSE’s ‘Bring them Home’ campaign fail so miserably?”.

Recruitment

The department also says recruitment levels in the health service are running at 371 staff a month (1,482 in the first four months of the year).

“If this recruitment rate continues for the remainder of 2018 and 2019, it is expected that this would add €235 million to the pay bill in 2018 and €250 million in 2019. This would result in an increase in direct pay spend of €485 million by end 2019,” it says.

“Going forward, this monthly recruitment level does not appear sustainable when combined with the cost of pay deals and other health service pressures such as pharmaceuticals.”

The review also says that HSE estimates on expenditure on agency staff have been “consistently out of line” with actual spending ranging from €52 million to €154 million above the projected level from 2015 to last year.

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