The Health Minister has offered a joint agreement to ensure hospitals have safe nurse staffing levels, and said it is "clear we've been asking too much of our nurses and their workloads are not sustainable".
David Clark's announcement today comes after nurses held a nationwide 24 hour strike earlier this month over pay and work conditions.
"The Government has heard the message from DHB nurses and midwives loud and clear – we agree safe staffing must be a priority," Dr David Clark said.
"The Government has already committed to funding an extra 500 DHB nurses as part of the current collective employment negotiations. That commitment stands, but there needs to be ongoing work to ensure that DHBs deliver now and into the future."
NZNO union chief executive Memo Musa welcomed the accord, saying it takes hold of unsafe staffing "at the very top level and we commend the Government for this move".
"Nurses have also said that a reason they leave the profession is because their high standards have been compromised because of unsafe staffing and also because they are dissatisfied by not being able to take time to advance their own skills or to train others."
Dr Clark said under the terms of the agreement, "DHBs and the Ministry will work with NZNO to monitor the implementation of the safe staffing tool 'Care Capacity Demand Management' (CCDM)".
"In addition, a strategy will be developed to help retain existing nurses and midwives in the public health service, and attract others back into the workforce. The accord also includes a commitment to looking at providing employment and training for all New Zealand nursing and midwifery graduates."
District Health Boards said the accord "spells out our commitment to addressing them, something that we will do alongside current employment agreement negotiations".
Spokesperson Jim Green said the additional staff of the CCDM would be on top of the $38m already earmarked in recruiting more staff.
The accord comes after NZNO were given the latest revised collective agreement from the DHBs, and recommended members agree to the offer.
Associate Industrial Services Manager Glenda Alexander said on July 25 "it retains previously achieved benefits and addresses the ongoing member priorities of greater need for clarity and commitment to safe staffing and also the issue of equity and fairness across the steps".
The outcome of the offer will be determined on Monday, August 6, when online voting closes.
Mr Green said "the revised offer is a significant increase on existing rates and pay equity is another component likely to deliver another significant increase within 18 months".
The accord is to be signed on Monday.