SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said that cutting student nurses places in the North will only create further problems in future.
He was speaking after the Department of Health said places would be cut by 300 due to budgetary pressures.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“It is unconceivable that given the massive workforce planning issues we are dealing with in our health service, with thousands of nursing jobs lying vacant, that we would cut training places for new nurses when we are in desperate need of them. Whatever short-term savings arise as a result of this decision will create far more pain in future when we still can’t recruit the nurses we need, with patient care suffering as a result and additional pressures put on our existing workforce.
“At New Decade, New Approach we recognised the need for extra nursing places to meet demand and now this has been cast aside because of a Tory austerity budget imposed by the British government, which we are powerless to do anything about because of the DUP’s refusal to get back to Stormont and do the jobs they were elected to do.
“I despair at the situation we currently find ourselves in where every day we are hearing about further destruction being caused to our health service, education system and to the most vulnerable people in our society.
“I welcome steps taken by the department to reduce the spend on agency nurses, but this will be rendered meaningless if we don’t have enough new nurses being trained to fill our existing vacancies and replace those who retire. I understand the difficult position the department is facing but given the current crisis within our health service this decision is extremely short sighted and will have long-term ramifications for both patients and staff.”