NURSES in the public healthcare sector can look forward to higher salaries and more avenues for career development and education, as the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduces initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining talent.

A total of 15 recommendations were submitted by the National Nursing Taskforce to MOH, which set up the Taskforce in December 2012 to strengthen the development of the nursing profession. Taskforce members met with the Healthcare Services Employees' Union as well as over 2,000 nurses to gather feedback through dialogues and townhall sessions.

At the Nurses' Merit Award Ceremony yesterday - where 81 nurses were honoured with the Nurses' Merit Award - Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong announced the acceptance of the Taskforce's various recommendations by MOH.

Stressing that nurses are at the forefront of efforts to transform Singapore's healthcare system, Mr Gan said: "More nurses will be needed, and we must equip our nurses with higher skills and knowledge and allow them to practice at the top of their licence and lead the change in our healthcare system."

In line with the recommendations, some 23,000 nurses in the public health and intermediate and long-term care sectors will receive increases in their salaries. These nurses can expect to receive a 3 to 10 per cent raise in their monthly base salary in 2014 and in 2015, as well as an annual nurse special payment of half a month's salary from December this year. MOH will channel S$300 million over FY14 and FY15 towards these salary increases and special payments.

Meanwhile, to ensure that more enrolled nurses can progress to become registered nurses, the 2.8 grade point average eligibility for the part-time bridging course at certain polytechnics is being revised. However, there will still be other requirements such as a minimum of three years of post-enrolment nursing work experience and a testimonial from their employer.

Enrolled nurses are those trained at the Institute of Technical Education level while registered nurses are trained at the diploma or degree level.

Greater autonomy will also be given to nurses in line with their enhanced training to enable them to make diagnoses as well as to order investigations and treatment for certain diseases. MOH will work towards granting experienced senior nurses - such as advanced practice nurses and nurse clinicians - the authority to prescribe medicines for stable patients who need to extend their medication supply.

In addition, a new "assistant nurse clinician" role will be introduced so that nurses have opportunities for leadership development earlier in their career.

Efforts will also be made to ensure flexible and part-time work arrangements will be more accessible to nurses that require them.

A National Council of Nursing Education will be established to oversee nursing education training and development. Nurses will also be able to tap on sponsorships for upgrading programmes.

As at end December last year, there were some 36,000 nurses registered with the Singapore Nursing Board.