A delegation of 20 Irish hospitals and healthcare employers travelled to London this weekend to recruit Irish nurses, midwives and doctors home.

Over 500 people turned up to the event today.

Both public and private hospitals were recruiting including the Blackrock Clinic, Bons Secours Hospital, University Hospital Limerick as well as Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin and The Galway Clinic.

The Department of Health has said a separate HSE recruitment campaign specifically targeted at Irish nurses in the UK has so far resulted in 400 definite expressions of interest and 112 contracts being offered or finalised, with the remainder being processed.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said efforts to recruit are happening but to date it said they have failed to bring back the numbers required.

The union is currently balloting its members in emergency departments for possible industrial action over what it says are unsafe staffing levels and overcrowding in emergency departments.

The Department of Health said there are more than 500 extra nurses in the public health service than a year ago, in spite of the global shortage of nursing staff, and the HSE continues to recruit actively within Ireland and abroad.

The department said work is now under way on extending the recruitment campaign to other countries.

It said the entire graduating class of nurses in Ireland this year can take up a full time contract if they so choose, the first time this has been offered in many years.

In a statement the Department of Health said the controversial graduate nursing scheme is being wound down and the recruitment moratorium for the HSE was lifted at the start of the year.

In terms of emergency department overcrowding, the Department of Health said staffing and resourcing is only one of 11 factors behind the ongoing problem and in some locations is not the principal factor at all.

Protest over cuts at Leitrim hospital

Protest organisers in support of St Patrick's Hospital in Leitrim say that over 500 people took part in a rally in Carrick-on-Shannon today.

They were demonstrating about the reduction in bed numbers at the hospital as well as cuts in day services.