Small rise in student nurse numbers ‘not enough’ meet demand

Ministers claimed the purpose of reforming the funding system was to boost the number of available student places.

Matt Bodell
16 August 2019
nursing students on the ward

The total number of recruits remains down by 8% overall since the withdrawal of the NHS Bursary.

The number of students accepted onto nursing undergraduate degree courses in England is nowhere near enough to meet the current or future demand, claims the Royal College of Nursing.

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Official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that 16,500 people were accepted onto pre-registration nursing courses in England this year.

While the figures show a small rise of 4% on last year,  the total number of recruits remains down by 8% overall since the withdrawal of the NHS Bursary system.

When the bursary was axed, ministers claimed the purpose of reforming the funding system for healthcare courses was to boost the number of available student places.

Investment is needed.

The Royal College of Nursing is calling on the Government to invest at least £1b per year into nursing education after its plan to increase numbers has ‘failed to work’.

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Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “It is encouraging to see our future nurses being accepted onto courses and we look forward to welcoming them to the nursing workforce.

“The efforts of NHS England to attract more people into nursing is a positive step but today’s figures still show that there will still be fewer nurses than we need entering our understaffed health and care system on completion of their courses.

“If we are to boost the numbers needed to give patients the care they deserve we need to see decisive action through proper and sustained investment in our nurses of the future.”

More work to be done.

The UCAS data also showed a small rise in the number of students accepted onto nursing undergraduate degree courses in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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Dr. Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director of the Council of Deans of Health, said that while the small increase is a positive sign “there is more work to be done if we are to provide the future workforce the NHS”.

Adding; “Recruitment to nursing, midwifery and allied health professions courses could be further supported by the introduction of maintenance grants for healthcare students and the NHS recruitment campaign, which was a positive first step, needs to be sustained in future years and extended to focus on all the professions”.

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