25 Aug 2019

Scheme fills nurse shortages in hard-to-staff areas

8:49 am on 25 August 2019

A record number of mental health nurses have joined a scheme which pays them more to work in areas where there are shortages.

Stock image.

Stock image. Photo: 123rf.com

The government's Voluntary Bonding Scheme gives health professionals the incentive to fill gaps in hard-to-staff professions and in communities where they are needed.

This year overall, 357 people were accepted into the scheme, similar to last year.

However, a record 148 mental health nurses were accepted, up 11 percent on last year.

That included 24 from Canterbury District Health Board, 19 from Waitematā DHB and 18 from Counties Manukau DHB.

Health Minister David Clark said it was encouraging to see the increase.

"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."

Mr Clark said the government wanted to ensure everyone had access to mental health support when needed.

The chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Shaun Robinson, said it's a good start but more needed to be done.

"The response to mental health is not just about services; it also needs to be about prevention and about promoting wellness and mental wellbeing."

The scheme was launched in 2009. It offers bonded after-tax payments to doctors, midwives, nurses, medical physicists, radiation therapists, sonographers and dentists.

Nurses qualify for the lowest amount, $2833, doctors and dentists qualify for the highest payment, of $10,000.

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