HSE campaign to 'bring nurses home' attracts few takers
Only 91 nurses in two years persuaded to return to Ireland
Just three nurses have been recruited in the past eight months as part of a special scheme aimed at luring young workers back to Ireland.
Amid an escalating crisis to retain key staff in the health service, new figures show that the Government's much-lauded 'Bring Them Home' campaign has wooed a paltry 91 nurses since its launch in July 2015.
The target was to entice home 500 staff employed in the UK through a massive recruitment drive.
Since last October, however, just three nurses have accepted job offers in Irish hospitals as part of the initiative, new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent have revealed.
As part of the deal, Irish nurses working in the UK were offered free flights and relocation expenses worth €1,500.
The HSE also offered to pay the nurses' registration fee of €100, to fund postgraduate education and allow incremental salary credit for work experience outside of Ireland.
They were also provided with a travel pass scheme, which attracts "significant tax relief".
The campaign to fill the permanent and pensionable jobs was also targeted at nurses from other countries working in the UK.
Following the poor uptake, an improved 'Bring Them Home' package, worth €3,000, was introduced in April, offering nurses who return home €1,500 up front - and an extra €1,500 after 12 months.
In a statement, the HSE confirmed it is now drawing up a new "international recruitment campaign" in a fresh bid to recruit badly needed general and psychiatric nursing staff, as well as midwives for Irish hospitals.
The Department of Health said it still fully supports the scheme - as well as the HSE'S national recruitment campaigns.
"Improvements to the 'Bring Them Home' campaign have been agreed and the HSE will issue details on this in due course," it added.
INMO general secretary, Liam Doran said the figures reinforce the need to improve the pay and conditions offered to nurses.
"A total of 7,500 Irish-trained nurses went to Britain in the last six years - and we've only brought 91 home," he said.
"Meanwhile the NHS are going to become more aggressive in their recruitment campaigns. We simply won't solve our problems in this country until we solve the pay problem. Britain is offering much better packages, better educational opportunities, and better pay," he said.
He warned that industrial stability could be jeopardised if the Government does not improve pay, and adequately tackle staff recruitment and retention problems in the health service.
"The INMO is going into the pay talks on Monday saying there has to be an initiative in any future agreement that will address the pay issue," he added.
A recent survey found 80pc of nurses and midwives due to qualify this year are planning to work abroad.