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Tufton looks to UK - London training programme could address shortage of critical-care nurses in Jamaica

Published:Friday | June 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
Health Minister Dr Chris Tufton (left) interacts with new World Health Organisation director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has reached out to the United Kingdom for assistance with tackling the shortage of critical-care nurses on the island.

Tufton last week signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with London South Bank University (LSBU), which is the largest nurses training institution in London, to explore the potential of post-basic education of nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.

The programme will see nurses being trained in both countries on an equal time share system so that patients in both countries receive the benefit of care and the nurses get experience working in both nations.

The precise details of the programme are yet to be finalised but the plan is to launch the programme at an international conference to be held in Jamaica in early August.

"I am expecting a delegation from the UK to visit Jamaica within two months to hold discussions with a number of stakeholders here, including our main local nurses training institutions, our nursing council, and others to establish key partnerships for the programme," said Tufton.

"The idea is to focus on specialist nurses; starting with up to 35 (nurses) per batch based on availability of local registered nurses. These nurses would be assigned to a hospital in the UK to do clinical training with LSBU as the training institution."


Programme duration


Pro-Vice-Chancellor at LSBU, Professor Paul Ivey, who signed the MOU on behalf of the university, anticipates the programme to run for three years with the participants able to 'earn as they learn'.

"If we can achieve this, then there should not be a cost barrier access to this training," said Ivey.

"Jamaica and the UK need more nurses, and health care is becoming more and more complex, so high-level training is needed more than ever," added Ivey.

Tufton, who hopes the programme will roll out on even a small scale as early as September, said though not yet finalised, the length of training for each batch of nurses is expected to last for six months.

"If 30 ICU (intensive care unit) nurses are trained in a year it would be almost doubling training capacity in that year since we can only do about 35 now (locally)," said Tufton.

"So even though numbers seem small, in absolute terms they are significant, based on what we are doing locally and what we need."

Jamaica's shortage of specialist nurses emanate from high migration rates and limited capacity for adequate and quality training.

In August of last year, 17 critical-care nurses graduated and within five months seven of them had migrated.


Long-standing issue


This is a long-standing issue as over the last three years Jamaica lost 29 per cent of its critical-care nursing workforce to migration, which has severely hindered the delivery of efficient and effective care.

Approximately 1,000 specialist nurses are currently needed locally to fill positions such as critical care, nephrology, accident and emergency, paediatric, neonatology, operating theatre, psychiatry, and midwifery.

"It is important to note that part of the MOU is the development of an exchange of faculty. A big challenge in training more nurses is a shortage of faculty here in Jamaica, so we are going to try to fix that through collaboration as well," said Tufton.

According to the health minister, the proposal to the UK government is net neutral migration so nurses will have their domicile being Jamaica even though they will work for a limited period in British hospitals.