A campaign to attract hundreds of Irish nurses back to Ireland from overseas has been quietly dropped after just 120 nurses relocated from the UK over four years.
Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) made the disclosure in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The scheme offered to pay removal and relocation expenses, and the costs of flights.
During 2015 and 2016, the HSE says it paid around €250,000 to operate the scheme, which attracted a total of 102 nurses, averaging out at just under €2,500 a head. After that, it was left to individual hospitals to pay.
The HSE admitted that despite huge nursing shortages in Ireland its Bring Them Home campaign has enticed back a grand total of just 120 nurses – all of them from the UK.
When it was launched in July 2015 the HSE expressed confidence it could recruit 500 nurses from the UK alone.
In 2017, Ireland’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris, extended the scheme beyond the UK to Irish nurses working anywhere across the world.
According to the HSE’s own records, released under Ireland’s Freedom of Information Act, just three nurses returned between January and July last year.
The previous year, 2017, saw 15 nurses recruited down from 82 in 2016. In 2015, the first year of the scheme, the figure was just 20.
The HSE says that the scheme has “now concluded” and has been “stood down” as hospital groups take on the responsibility of directly recruiting nurses themselves.
But the HSE said that financial incentives – worth up to €3,000 – are available for any nurses wishing to relocate to Ireland from abroad.
Earlier this year, scores of Irish nurses and midwives gathered in London to show solidarity with the major nursing strike action which was due to take place in Ireland.
Irish nurses who attended the event said that better work conditions and pay would convince many emigrant nurses working here in the UK to return home.
Amy Kearney, one of the gathering’s main organisers, said at the time that she was motivated to replicate the “unbelievable” scenes she had seen online in Australia where a similar gathering had taken place.
The uncertainty Brexit is causing, Ms Kearney told the Irish World, means many UK-based nurses from Ireland would consider moving to Ireland if work conditions improved.
“To have the option of working at home with better conditions and fair pay in place would be amazing and would entice many of us to come back to Ireland,” she said.
The Irish World reported last month about how the Irish government has appealed to Irish teachers working here in the UK – and the rest of the world – to come home to end the country’s chronic teacher shortage.
In an attempt to match educators here with schools in Ireland that have teacher shortages, the Irish government set up an online portal, turasabhaile.com, which translates as ‘journey home’.
In response, Irish teachers in the UK called on the Irish government to introduce more substantive measures than online portals to encourage them to return home to work.
Permanent contracts, guaranteed access to jobs, fair wages and additional training are needed to entice them to return, a number of Irish teachers currently working in British schools told the Irish World.
By Colin Gannon