District health boards say vacancy rates have fallen as former n' />

New Zealand's chronic nursing shortage is almost over - thanks to the recession.

District health boards say vacancy rates have fallen as former nurses return to make up lost family income and young people turn to nursing for secure jobs.

The Auckland board has no nursing vacancies in its emergency department and two in its admissions and planning unit.

Counties-Manukau has two or three vacancies in emergency care - a big improvement on figures recently.

At the Waitemata board, acting chairman Max Abbott said: "We have for the first time almost full employment in the emergency and acute admissions areas."

"Midwifery is still an area of a lot of vacancies, but in nursing we now have more applicants than places. We had more than 600 applicants for 110 nursing places this year. Going back two years we were scratching to have 100 people apply," he said.

"It's because people see the health and teaching professions as more secure than some others."

Waikato DHB communications manager Mary-Anne Gill said her board employed more nurses than it was funded for, with full staffing in emergency and acute care.

"The chief operating officer can't recall another time when it's been like this," she said.

"We are noticing a 20 to 30 per cent increase in the people going to the nursing part of our website to look at the options open.

"We also work in partnership with Wintec [Waikato Institute of Technology], who are reporting higher than usual intakes into nursing and a lot of interest from secondary schools and from people who have left nursing."

But she said there were still "critical shortages" in mental health nursing. "We are recruiting vigorously to that in New Zealand and the UK."

Bay of Plenty DHB chief operating officer Graham Dyer said the recession had helped increase the available pool of nurses, but his board had reduced nursing shortages over recent years through pay rises and working closely with training institutions.

Rotorua/Taupo Lakes DHB chief executive Cathy Cooney reported vacancies for 12.8 fulltime-equivalent nurses and 4.16 midwives, down from 29.3 nurses and 7.4 midwives a year ago.

There were no vacancies in emergency or intensive care and Rotorua Hospital had added four nurses to its emergency department because of pressures it experienced last winter.

However there are still nursing shortages in private hospitals and rest homes.

Healthcare Providers of NZ chief executive Martin Taylor said private sector nursing pay rates were now 20 per cent behind DHBs because Government funding to the sector had not kept pace with pay increases in public hospitals.