Universities should capitalise on surging interest in nurse training

Figures reveal a shortage of 40,000 vacancies across the NHS in England alone with thousands more in social care. 

James McKay
13 May 2020
nursing students on the ward

A spring recruitment drive could boost student nurse numbers.

NHS England has called on universities to increase the number of places on nursing courses to give people interested in nursing more opportunities to sign up.


Thew call comes after the NHS Health Careers website has seen a 220% rise in people expressing an interest in becoming a nurse amid the global pandemic.

At the moment universities only let people sign up once or twice a year, in January and September. NHS England has suggested a Spring recruitment drive could boost numbers.

Figures reveal a shortage of 40,000 vacancies across the NHS in England alone with thousands more in social care.

We are going to need many more nurses.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said:  “The biggest global health emergency in a century has put a huge spotlight on the crucial role of nurses not just in the NHS but also in social care.


“We have seen three generations of nurses pitching in to help, not just our current fantastic staff but also retired nurses coming back and student nurses beginning their careers early.

“And looking out across the years ahead we know we are going to need many more nurses.

“So this is an opportunity not just to thank our current nurses but also to invite bright and brilliant and committed people across the country to consider nursing as a career.”

Chief nursing officer Ruth May said: “Nursing can be challenging but it is also the most rewarding career you can have looking after patients and their families at the happiest times in their life, such as the birth of a child, and at the some of the most difficult.


“I hope people, young and older, will be inspired by the amazing response of our profession to the global coronavirus pandemic and my message to them is: join us.

We need to do more.

The Royal College of Nursing has warned that although an expansion in training numbers is welcome, an overhaul of tuition fees and maintenance grants is essential.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary said:  The best way to close the gap in nursing vacancies is through training and education, so this call for more clinical placements is welcome.

“We hope the next generation will see the professionalism exhibited by nursing staff during this crisis and want to join us. But we went into this pandemic with nearly 40,000 vacancies in England alone.

“So if we are to truly to grow the nursing workforce, we need to do more. That is why we are calling for full tuition fee support and maintenance grants which cover the true cost of living for all nursing students in England for those studying now and in the future.”


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