More than 1,200 jobs were saved following an examinership process during 2014, according to figures published today.

The figure is up 49% on last year, according to the Hughes Blake SME Examinership Index, with the success rate of examinerships standing at 90% during 2014.

The examinership process was extended to Circuit Courts for the first time this year in a bid to make it more accessible to firms based outside of Dublin, which had helped to boost the numbers of jobs saved.

“The introduction of Circuit Court examinership has received a very favourable reaction on the ground,” said Neil Hughes, managing partner at Hughes Blake.

“Local business owners have told us that the removal of the need to travel to Dublin has made examinership a possibility where they otherwise would have faced receivership or liquidation. It is also associated with lower costs and with a reduced requirement for the input of barristers, and we have found that the reduction in cost is something struggling SMEs have welcomed with open arms.”

Mr Blake said debts were still a big problem for small and medium-sized enterprises, with high rents particularly affecting the retail industry during the year.

He said he expected more firms to access the examinership process in 2015 ahead, as they seek to lighten the burden of large debts in order to take advantage of the improving economy.