Nurses and midwives working in the UK and further afield will be encouraged to return to work in Ireland as part of a recruitment campaign by the Health Service Executive.

The executive is looking to attract up to 500 staff through the recruitment drive, and a relocation package will be offered to successful nurses and midwives.

The recruitment campaign is specifically targeting Irish nurses and midwives who left Ireland to work abroad.

The HSE is offering a relocation package of up to €1,500 including flights.

A year's nursing registration will also be paid.

They will be offered permanent positions within the HSE, funded post-graduate education and incremental credit for experience gained outside Ireland.

Facebook, Twitter, newspaper advertisements and a dedicated website - nursinginireland.ie - will be used to raise awareness of the recruitment campaign.

The move has been broadly welcomed by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

INMO spokesperson David Hughes said he hoped nurses would take up the HSE's offer.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said: "The Irish health service badly needs nurses.

"We are very short of nurses now and we have been lobbying the HSE to have an international recruitment campaign to try and bring people back since the beginning of this year."

Mr Hughes said approximately 9,000 nurses had left Ireland since 2009.

He noted that while there were attractive packages available elsewhere, the HSE had some unique advantages.

"The HSE has many more locations so people will have more choice in this offer."

National Director of Human Resources with the HSE Ian Tegerdine has said there is an incentive now for nurses to return home

He said things have changed and jobs are now available for nurses. 
 
"Remember during the austerity years when we had the recruitment moratorium, we did not have jobs to offer these people. We sort of forced them out of the country.We are now saying to them things have changed, there is a bit of an upturn in the economic situation and we now do have some jobs."

He added that this recruitment drive is the first pilot of its kind but it could run again.

"It is not going to be a once off. We may do this again if it's successful and we may need to look at all different aspects of the offer to see which parts really attracted the nurses and which parts need attention. So we are looking at this as a pilot." 

The estimated cost per graduate including recruitment package is in the range of €2,000 to €3,000. 

He said the attraction for nurses is not just about the money but the education opportunities. 

Acknowledging that there is a staffing issue, he said getting the staffing right is not going to happen overnight but that they are going in the right direction.