HSE spending on agency nurses increased by almost 20% in the first nine months of the year compared to the same timeframe in 2017.
The figures were released to Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Stephen Donnelly.
“Expenditure on agency nurses amounted to more than €56 million up to the end of September – up from €47 million the year before. However, this figure does not include spending in the voluntary hospitals," Deputy Donnelly said.
“These statistics underscore the ongoing difficulty in recruiting and retaining nurses in our health services. The HSE and the Minister for Health often tell us that nurse recruitment is on the up and that’s true if you include nurse managers and student nurses.
"However, the overwhelming majority of nurses are staff nurses and for the first nine months of this year, their number actually fell by 227."
Deputy Donnelly called for the HSE to recruit and retain key nursing posts.
“Solutions need to be found. Total agency spend on nurses in 2018 is likely to hit €100 million – a sum that actually exceeds the cost of providing pay equality for post-2012 entrants to the profession. On top of this, I understand that nursing agencies have increased their rates by up to 20%.
“Both ESRI projections and the Health Service Capacity Review make clear that there will be significant increases in demand for healthcare over the next decade.
"Unless a concerted effort is made to recruit and retain key nursing posts we will be facing even more serious challenges in the years ahead.”