Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 01 July, 1999
Written Answers. - Nursing Staff.
Ms McManus Ms McManus
136. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason fees are still applicable to student nurses who go on to third level education in order to obtain a degree; the reason there are no maintenance grants available to members of the nursing profession who take on an enrolled nurse conversion course at Queen's University, Belfast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17070/99]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): I presume the Deputy is referring to the one-year full-time degree course which the National University of Ireland, Galway is offering to students who have successfully completed the nursing registration-diploma programmes, the first of which was introduced in 1994.
The position is that successful completion by a student of the three-year nursing registration-diploma programme leads to registration as a  nurse with An Bord Altranais, at which point he or she will become eligible for employment as a nurse. Since a degree in nursing is not a requirement for registration as a nurse and subsequent employment, such a qualification would be an optional post-registration qualification. A student nurse who successfully completes the three-year diploma programme and who wishes to undertake a fourth year of full-time study leading to the award of a degree in nursing would, therefore, be responsible for making his or her own arrangements, including the payment of course fees. I am not in a position to provide funding for such a course.
As regards the Deputy's query concerning maintenance grants for individuals who wish to undertake the state enrolled nursing course in Queen's University, Belfast, I should explain that in this country there is only one level of nurse, that of registered general nurse and that this is equivalent to the British qualification of registered general nurse. This level of general nursing is governed by EU directives which set down the minimum amount of training required to achieve this qualification or its equivalent throughout the European Union. Ireland does not have a comparable qualification to the British grade of SEN and because of the minimum training requirements laid down for general nursing in EU directives it would not be possible to allow SENs to practice as RGNs. Instead, the holder of such a qualification would have to undergo a conversion course in order to qualify for registration as an RGN in the UK. The individual would then be entitled to apply for registration in the general nurse division of the register of nurses maintained by An Bord Altranais, in accordance with the relevant EU directive relating to the recognition of nursing qualifications. I understand that An Bord Altranais has been informed by the European Commission that the Irish authorities have no obligation under EU law to create or regulate the activities of an SEN.
An Bord Altranais has examined the feasibility of creating access to conversion courses in conjunction with the UK nursing authorities, to enable SEN diploma holders to become RGNs. Such courses would have UK recognition and the successful participants would be eligible to register as an RGN in Ireland. However, while researching the proposed conversion course, An Bord Altranais discovered that not more than 10 per cent of the proposed course could take place outside the UK. As it was not logistically possible to organise such a course in Ireland, the proposal was not carried through. I understand that the European Commission has stated that there is no onus on An Bord Altranais to provide such a course.
The provision of conversion courses for SENs was considered by the commission on nursing. The commission noted that there is no tradition here of a registerable nursing qualification other than registered nurse. Similarly, the commission found that there is no precedent here for the pro vision of courses of the type provided for SENs in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the commission did not recommend any change in the rules of An Bord Altranais in relation to the recognition of the SEN qualification or the provision of conversion courses.
I am not in a position, therefore, to provide funding for those individuals wishing to participate in the SEN conversion course in Queen's University, Belfast. My priority is the continued implementation of the recommendations of the report of the commission on nursing, and all available funding is being directed towards achieving that objective.
Dáil Éireann 507 Written Answers. Nursing Staff.