A united health service? Republic set to fund 250 nursing places in North
The government is set to invest €10 million in a remarkable cross-border move.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is expected to give his approval to plans for funding 250 student nursing and midwifery places in Northern Ireland.
The move comes four months after the Fianna Fáil politician wrote to the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris calling for an increase in the supply of medical and nursing graduates.
Furthermore, the additional university places will be provided in the wake of severe Stormont budget cuts, which saw the removal of 300 nursing places in the North ahead of the 2023/24 academic year.
According to The Irish Times, the investment in Northern Irish universities will cost the coalition government €10 million, and will see 80% of the 250 nursing places created made available for students from the Republic.
Another unprecedented result of the investment sees students from the Republic being free to work within the North's healthcare system, despite it being under the jurisdiction of the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
At present, the funding is thought to be non-recurrent and a direct result of the North's enduring financial crisis caused by the Stormont Assembly gridlock.
It is also the first time that the Department of Health has itself gone in search of additional college places for healthcare students, taking up a role which is usually fulfilled by the Department of Higher Education.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that Minister Donnelly has "made clear the imperative for Ireland to double our number of healthcare graduates, across all disciplines".
With 3,000 vacant nursing positions at present within Northern Ireland, authorities North of the border welcomed the news, with its Healthcare Department describing the move as "a vital contribution to the care of patients".
The Department also added that the investment will be "an important practical step in fostering future collaboration across the island of Ireland in the important area of healthcare training, which will be to the mutual benefit of our healthcare systems".
This decision to help fund infrastructure within the North is not an isolated incident though, with the Republic's coalition government last month also confirming that it would co-fund the upgrading of the A5 road to Derry.
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