Northern Ireland

Ulster University nurse training fund 'cut by almost £1m'

Nurse Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The number of district nurses the Ulster University's School of Nursing can educate will be reduced by half as a result of the cut

The Ulster University (UU) has warned a cut of almost £1m to funding for training specialist nurses will cause serious consequences for health care.

Part of the role of its School of Nursing is to train already qualified nurses to be health visitors, community or district nurses.

The Department of Health cut represents a reduction of almost 60% in its funds.

A department spokesperson said the current financial climate meant "taking very difficult decisions".


Marie-Louise Connolly, BBC News NI Health Correspondent

Good news travels fast, but bad news travels even faster.

On that basis the story about cuts to nurse training funds has spread like wild fire. People are in shock.

Charities, nurses, doctors and health unions are furious. Furious not just at the impact the cuts will have, but also the harsh way the news was delivered.

It's also confusing. In a week where sums of £1bn were being reported to be part of the DUP/Tory deal, why such brutal cuts to training health staff of the future?

Read more from Marie-Louise here.

However, the head of Life and Health Sciences at the university said the cut would mean "severe implications" on health care.

Professor Carol Curran told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster that it will be "very difficult to manage a cut of that magnitude without any prior notice or warning".

She said news of the cut "dropped on our desk this week".

Image caption The university is writing to the Department of Health over the consequences of the cuts

Janice Smyth, the Northern Ireland director at the Royal College of Nursing, said the decision was "hugely disappointing" and that there had been no consultation or engagement from the department.

Mrs Smyth said representatives needed to get "round a table" with the department and ask them if they "understand the implications of the decisions".


According to UU figures seen by the BBC, the funding cut will have a dramatic impact on the number of nurses it can train.

For instance, instead of training 63 health visitors this year, the university will only train 20.

The number of district nurses they educate will be cut in half.

Image caption The department said that it had to make "very difficult decisions"

The university is writing to the department to warn them that the cut will cause serious consequences for nursing provision.

Prof Curran said the decision was "counter-intuitive to the direction of travel" recommended for health care in Northern Ireland and that 43 GP practices that were expecting to get a health visitor will now not receive one.

"One million is a lot which is why we're endeavouring to meet with the department as a matter of urgency to see if there's anything we can do to mitigate this.

"We hope we're able to rescue this plan and the department will reconsider some of the allocation of its money."

'Financial constraints'

She added that the current lack of a Stormont executive, and health minister, made things more difficult and that "no doubt the decision might have been different if a minister was in place".

In a statement, the Department of Health said: "The current financial climate has necessitated taking very difficult decisions to balance the very many demands and considerations of the wider health and social care system within the constraints of the financial resource available."

It said the available budget for nursing, midwifery and allied health professional education and training for 17/18 had "been prioritised to fund areas of clinical practice that are strategically important and which minimise impact on direct care".

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