Figures from UCAS reveal a stark drop in the numbers nursing applicants, leading nurses warn of an impending workforce crisis.
The number of nursing applicants in England has fallen by 23% since 2016. 43,800 applications were made in England in January 2016 and 33,810 in January 2017, meaning 9,990 fewer people have chosen to study nursing compared to last year.
The Royal College of Nursing says the replacement of NHS bursaries with student loans is the reason for the fall in nursing applicants.
The ongoing cap on pay for Nurses and healthcare staff is also said to be a contributing factor – leading to Nursing being the lowest paid graduate profession in England.
Combined with a drop in the number of EU Nurses working in England leading NHS officials are warning that a staffing crisis is looming.
Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said: “We warned the Government the removal of student funding would see a sharp drop in nursing applications. These figures confirm our worst fears.
“The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation.”
“The outlook is bleak – fewer EU nurses are coming to work in the UK following the Brexit vote, and by 2020 nearly half the workforce will be eligible for retirement.
“With 24,000 nursing vacancies in the UK, the Government needs to take immediate action to encourage more applicants by reinstating student funding and investing in student education – the future of nursing, and the NHS, is in jeopardy.”
Countering the argument, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “Student contributions to university costs have changed on three previous occasions, and every time there has been an immediate dip in application rates followed by a steady rise — we are confident nursing courses will follow a similar trend and are certain we will have all the student nurses the NHS needs by September.”
Labour calls for £500m emergency ‘winter bailout fund’ for NHS
Labour will call for the government to commit a £500m “winter bailout fund” for the NHS over the coming months.
Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, says the money is needed to increase capacity in struggling hospitals and pay for extra staff as the NHS faces the worst winter on record.
He also said it was Labour’s “ambition” to return NHS funding increases to the same level as during the 1997-2010 Labour governments.
Mr Ashworth claims that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and Theresa May have failed to provide an adequate plan to how the NHS is preparing, for what is expected to be, the worst winter on record for the health and social care service.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said:
“Any bailout money this winter should be used to bolster frontline staff and help ensure safe patient care. Having the right number of nurses is key to treating people effectively and safely.
“Yet too many hospitals are chronically short of nursing staff. As demand increases over the winter months, it’s patients who will pay the price unless something is done.
“Properly funding the NHS is a political choice – it should not reach the stage where a last-minute bailout is required to keep people safe.”
The Shadow Health Secretary will use a speech to the Labour party conference today to call for the extra funding.
£13 million funding to help hospital A&Es prepare for winter
The Department of Health has announced 19 hospitals in England will benefit from extra funding for emergency care over winter.
Following a plea for funding from NHS Providers, the association that represents healthcare trusts, the Department of Health (DoH) has announced it will provide additional funding to nineteen NHS hospitals in England.
The 19 hospitals across England will be given a cash injection of over £13 million for emergency care, in the latest wave of winter funding announced today by Health Minister Philip Dunne.
Around £13 million has been awarded to improve patient flow through A&E, ensuring departments are prepared for busy times during winter. The additional funding brings the total given to hospitals since April to over £90 million, part of the dedicated funding announced in the Spring Budget.
Minister of State for Health Philip Dunne said:
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff, the NHS has put in place strong plans ahead of winter – ensuring patients continue to receive safe and efficient care as demand rises over the coming months.
This funding will give more hospitals the boost they need to streamline patient flow in A&E, freeing up A&Es to care for the sickest patients and helping make sure all patients get the right treatment in the right place as quickly as possible”.
The funding will be used to help hospitals finalise preparations ahead of winter, particularly to handle the large volumes of patients attending A&E. By investing in the necessary equipment or infrastructure, hospitals will be able to target improvements to patient flow and relieve pressure on A&E.
The funding supports NHS England’s wider plans to improve A&E performance in England by 2018. In particular, it will help hospitals hit the target of admitting, transferring or discharging 95% of patients within 4 hours.
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