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.”