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A record number of mental health nurses have applied for a scheme to help reduce shortages in hospitals and communities.

The Voluntary Bonding Scheme, which has been running for a decade, had 148 mental health nurses accepted for the 2019 intake, an 11% increase on last year.

This comes after the Mental Health Inquiry identified a need for more frontline mental health staff to meet the increasing need for their services.

Health Minister Dr David Clark says part of this is getting more mental health nurses in our hospitals, community organisations and addiction services, so he is encouraged to see good uptake of the scheme.

“Past experience tells us that registered nurses on the scheme are more likely to stay in mental health work than their counterparts. Their retention rate at five years is up to 27 percent higher. That’s a great result and is good evidence the Scheme is working.

“Staying in the job longer is better for both patients and health services. Patients benefit by being treated by more experienced staff and health services gain from savings in recruitment and training costs – a saving of $1.90 for every dollar spent on the scheme,” says Clark.

The mental health nurse graduates registering for the scheme include 24 mental health nurses within Canterbury DHB, 19 within Waitematā DHB and 18 within Counties Manukau DHB.

This year 357 new graduate health professionals were accepted on the scheme – about the same as last year.

This year’s intake included 67 new midwifery graduates – a record number which represents almost 40% of all midwives who graduated last year. A significant proportion of the midwifery registrations (25) were from the Counties Manukau DHB region – where there has been particular pressure on services.

More GP trainees were also registered with the scheme this year than ever before – 35, up from 24 last year.

“It is also good to see that we’ve had a high number of Māori health professional graduates register – 73, on a par with a record 74 registrants last year. There were also 40 Pasifika graduates who signed up.

“This means that nearly a third of all the graduates accepted on the scheme this year (31.6%) are of Māori or Pasifika descent. We need to continue to build on these numbers so that our health workforce is more representative of our diverse communities,” says Clark.

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