Union says costs of accommodation are outstripping nurses pay and must be addressed.

Thursday, 13th April 2023 - The Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) 2023 Annual Delegate Conference taking place in Tullow, Co. Carlow was told today (13th April) that nursing shortages are impacting at every level of the mental health services and the problem has escalated since the decline of Covid due to a resumption of nurse emigration and retirement.

Addressing the Conference, PNA General Secretary, Peter Hughes said mental health services are once again experiencing a recruitment and retention crisis in both mental health and intellectual disability nursing. This has continued despite a PNA national survey of branches last November which revealed over 700 vacancies in the mental health services.

“Since the decline of COVID, services are now experiencing a very high level of nurses emigrating to Australia and Canada in particular.  Furthermore, nurses, who were eligible to retire and who stayed on to support services are now finally retiring.”

“These chronic shortages are happening at a time when there is a significant increase in demand for mental health services post covid. The PNA highlighted these concerns over a year ago. However, the Department of Health and the HSE failed then and continues to fail, to address the identified concerns.”

“The impacts of shortages are apparent daily throughout the services and the message to the Government is clear. It is inexcusable that nursing vacancies have been allowed to increase to such an extent that beds are being closed and vital services are being denied to communities across the country.”

“I am once again reiterating our demand on the Minister, Department of Health and the HSE to urgently establish workforce planning groups at both CHO level and nationally to address the crisis in the recruitment and retention of Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurses.”


Mr Hughes said PNA has been to the fore in publicly highlighting the historic under investment in our CAMH services.

“This year the full extent of those failings was confirmed in January when the Mental Health Commission (MHC) issued an interim report of the review on the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).”

“The Commission made the decision to issue an interim report due to concerns in relation to the risk to safety and welfare of children receiving Mental Health Services, the management of the risk and lack of governance. “

“The MHC Report is nothing less than a damning indictment of the many years of lack of investment in Mental Health Services, and a lack of workforce planning within the services, and particularly in CAMHS.”

“It also highlights a CAMHS service, that is failing children, young people, families, communities, and staff. The pressures and burnout experienced by staff left to cope with staffing shortages in CAMHS is intolerable and it is growing.”

“Despite the publication of the Maskey Report in January 2022 and the MHC Report it is inconceivable that over the past year the diminution of mental health services for children and adolescents of this country has continued. In effect we have 42 operational beds nationally which is less than 50% of the 100 beds recommended in Vision for Change. This is 30 beds less than this time last year.”

“This is against a background of an increase in demand for CAMHS, and an increase in the complexity of cases referred since the COVID pandemic. Waiting lists have almost doubled over the past two and a half years from 2,112 in July 2020 to 3,937 in November 2022.This reduction in beds will further exacerbate an already unacceptable waiting list for CAMHS and as we know from experience that this will ultimately lead to the inappropriate admission of children and adolescents to adult mental health units.”

Subsidised Nursing Accommodation:

Mr Hughes said that for years PNA has been warning that the spiralling cost of accommodation was a major concern particularly for young nurses and those contemplating a return from abroad. 

“The cost of purchasing property, and increasingly of renting, in the major cities is prohibitive and is outstripping nurses pay, and this in turn is feeding into the nursing recruitment and retention crisis.”

“I believe it is becoming increasingly critical that Government addresses the housing and social needs of nurses by developing and prioritising a subsidised nursing accommodation that can be offered for a set period of time to ensure we can attract and retain a stable nursing workforce.”


Mr. Hughes said it was inexplicable that despite the professionalism and dedication shown by paramedics throughout Covid that members of the National Ambulance Service Representative Association (NASRA) branch of the PNA are still fighting for the right to be represented by the union of their choice, the PNA.

“NASRA has been to the forefront since its formation in highlighting service and operational deficiencies in the National Ambulance Service and calling the NAS, HSE and Government to account on the crucial issues facing the service and its dedicated, professional workforce.”

“The 13-year campaign by paramedics, emt’s and advanced paramedics within the NAS to have the right to join NASRA/PNA as the trade union of their choice and to be represented by NASRA/PNA is continuing in the face of inexplicable opposition from the HSE.”

“Our commitment to the NASRA branch of PNA and its members remains steadfast, and I am again calling on the Minister for Health and HSE to bring this unnecessary and divisive dispute to an end once and for all.”

Media Contact:  Derek Cunningham 086-2430535This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Jim Devlin 0872631057 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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