Nursing: Health Minister Simon Hamilton announces 100 more training places
One hundred new nurse training places will be made available in Northern Ireland, the health minister has said.
Simon Hamilton made the announcement due to what he said was a rising demand for nurses across the health system.
The move will take the Department of Health's commission of annual student nursing places to 745.
The Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland said it was "very good news".
"I'm delighted that the minister has given it a priority in a financially constrained system but it's certainly a very positive step in the right direction," said Janice Smyth, a director of the college.
She added that another 1,500 nurses are still needed to plug "gaps" in Northern Ireland's nursing service.
The confirmation of additional nursing places is one of a number of new funding announcements made by Mr Hamilton in the final weeks of the Northern Ireland Assembly term before May's election.
The training places will be made available from the autumn.
Mr Hamilton said nurses are "central to the delivery of safe, effective and compassionate care".
"Even though we have increased the number of front-line nurses and midwives by 1,200 over the past four-and-a-half years, I recognise that the demand for nurses continues to rise," he said.
"I am deeply impressed by the quality of care provided by our nurses, and of the pre-registration training provided by our partner universities."
He added that nurses trained in Northern Ireland "are among the best in the world".
Mr Hamilton has also announced the set-up of a new task group to make recommendations on the future of nursing and midwifery in Northern Ireland.