The Minister for Health has warned that the health service cannot allow a "runaway train" regarding the cost of recruitment of additional staff.

Simon Harris was responding to queries about a recruitment pause introduced in the HSE - after he had pledged that every student nurse graduating this year would be offered a permanent full-time job in the health service.

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Speaking at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s conference in Trim, he said it was very important the HSE should live within its budget and apply a degree of common sense and responsibility towards the taxpayer.

He said they could not have a situation where there was a runaway train of recruitment.

He insisted the recruitment pause had been misrepresented in some quarters, adding that "the pause is not a pause".

The Minister said it was a situation where hospital groups which had not submitted plans in line with their budgets  were being told that they could not recruit more staff until they did so.

He stated that it was not unreasonable to expect a health service manager paid by the taxpayer to comply with the wishes of the Government, the Oireachtas and budgetary plans - as when they fail to do so, there were significant overruns in the health service which could not be tolerated.

Asked about where productivity savings would be secured to offset the cost of the recent INMO deal (estimated at up to €50 million for two years alone subject to those savings being secured), Mr Harris said details of the savings would be contained in an implementation plan to be revealed in the next few weeks.

Responding to the Minister's speech, INMO President Martina Harkin-Kelly described the recruitment pause for  nurses and midwives as the elephant in the room, and was applauded when she said it had to go.

Minister Harris also told delegates he believed the recent Labour Court proposal which resolved the nurses and midwives dispute would help to resolve difficulties with the recruitment and retention of staff.

The Minister also pledged to give "support" to student nurses facing costs of travel and subsistence when undertaking placements - but ruled out paying them during their studies.