SIPTU representatives will meet with the management of the HSE in the coming days to discuss the recruitment and retention crisis within mental health nursing services. SIPTU Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “Nurse staffing levels within the public health system were reduced by more than 5000 between 2009 and 2014. Currently, it is believed there are in excess of 600 vacancies within mental health nursing services and this is set to increase by another 400 due to pending retirements.“Two tier pay systems, the removal of allowances, no funding for further education, in addition to the continuing effect of the recruitment freeze, have left the service crippled and staff within it demoralised.” Figgis added: “The policy pursued by the HSE in 2015 to attract the return of graduate nurses and midwives to Ireland, with the approval of Government departments, failed to provide any significant return. In fact, mental health nurses agreeable to return under the scheme were in single figures. This is no way to build a health service for the future. Not only is the public health system not competitive with other health jurisdictions, it is also not competitive in comparison to the private health system in Ireland.” SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Nursing staff do not feel valued within the public health system. As a result, we are educating world class professionals for export to the benefit of other countries. There is a responsibility on the HSE, Department of Health and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to engage with stakeholders to address all the issues which are negatively impacting on recruiting and retaining nursing staff.” He added: “It is essential that a robust plan is drawn up concerning how the necessary resources are to be made available for nursing and midwifery services. SIPTU Health intends on fully engaging within that process and we welcome the commitment of the management of the HSE to do likewise.”