Shock new figures from the Department of Health reveal that the number of nurses retiring in the Southern Trust has more than quadrupled in the past four years.
A total of 91 local nurses embarked on retirement in 2015/16, up from 21 in 2011/12, with the figure increasing steadily every year.
The figure is the highest among all the trusts in Northern Ireland, and has also increased at the fastest rate, with the retirement levels either doubling or staying the same.
Nurses in the older age bracket perform some of the most crucial roles in hospitals and their experience and commitment are extremely important to the NHS.
The rise has led to fears of a nursing retirement ‘timebomb’ as more and more staff approach retirement.
In February this year, it was revealed that there were more than 850 nursing vacancies across NI’s trusts.
In the last two years vacancies in nursing at the Southern Trust went up by 1,000% - from 19 to 226. Stormont’s Department of Health said it has increased the total size of the health and social care workforce by 6%.
A Trust spokesperson said: “The Trust monitors the age profile of its workforce and is mindful that nurses who were members of the HSC Pension Scheme before April 1995 are eligible to retire at age 55, which has an impact on the number of nurses seeking to retire.
“The Trust places significant priority on ensuring that all steps are taken through a full range of local recruitment campaigns to replace retired nurses with registered nurses.
“We work closely with universities to attract nurses to work in our hospital and community services, and are proactive in growing our own nursing workforce through Open University degree programmes.
“The Trust is participating in international recruitment campaigns and will be introducing international nursing recruits to our workforce over the next number of months.”