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A manpower database for nurses employed by the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) in Northern Ireland is used to identify the qualified nurses not currently employed by the DHSS, i e the limbo stock, and describe this stock in terms of age, sex, length of previous service, grade and location This information is invaluable for manpower planners who must decide on how many vacancies can be filled by recruitment from the limbo stock, as opposed to training new nurses Such a methodology provides a valuable tool for the nurse manpower planner