All fourth year student nurses are to be offered permanent posts when they graduate in the autumn, the Health Service Executive has confirmed.

The news has been welcomed by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which has campaigned for nurses to be given permanent positions in a bid to tackle understaffing.

The HSE confirmed that hospital management has been authorised to offer permanent posts to fourth year graduates "where vacancies exist or where agency costs can be displaced".

In a memo to INMO members issued this afternoon, General Secretary Liam Doran said the INMO has consistently sought permanent posts for all graduates in recent years because of the staffing crisis in the health service.

To ensure that this commitment is met, he said a small group with representation from the INMO, the Department of Health and the HSE has been established and will seek confirmation from all hospitals over the coming two to three weeks that they have offered permanent posts to fourth years.

Mr Doran urged members to contact the union immediately if any hospital departs from the commitment to permanent posts, adding that the union is determined to ensure that the commitment is fully implemented.

Yesterday, Mr Doran warned that hospitals could face industrial action by nurses in the autumn because the HSE has failed to fully implement a February agreement to address overcrowding and understaffing in emergency departments.

It noted that the number of admitted patients on trolleys had increased by 12% in the first three weeks of July this year compared to the same period a year ago.