Poor turnout to elect new Nursing Council members

11 November 2014

The Nursing Council can finally announce - after election results got caught up in a two-month limbo – that one new face and two sitting councillors have been elected to council as nurse representatives.

Professor Jo Ann Walton has been re-elected to council along with Starship nurse advisor Catherine Byrne who has been elected for the third time. The new council member is Joanne Hopson who has been nursing for 12 years and replaces former Nursing Council manager Barry Ayling who did not stand for a second term.

The poll attracted a record 33 candidates for the three elected nurse positions on the Council but only 10 per cent of the nearly 50,000 eligible nurses voted in the postal ballot.  The ballot closed in late winter but the timing of the General Election – and the need to wait for the appointment of a new Health Minister to approve the successful candidates – meant the results were only released on November 10.

The latest election was the third held by the Nursing Council since former Minister of Health Tony Ryall was elected in 2008 on a platform that included nurses having the right to elect professional representatives onto the Council. 

The first election held in 2009 drew the greatest interest with more than 6000 nurses (14% of those eligible at the time) voting but interest has dwindled since then with the turnout falling to 5100 (10.8 per cent) in 2011 and stagnating at 5056 (10.2 per cent) in 2014. 

Of the just over 5000 votes received in this year's ballot 241 were invalid as the voting nurses had ticked names rather than used numbers to identify their voting preference under the single transferable voting (STV) system.

NB The elected council members are still not officially appointed.  The Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman  has started the appointment process with the next step being the three successful candidates' names going to the the Appointment and Honours Committee on the 25 November after which they will be gazetted as council members.