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Removing postgraduate bursary could see nurse numbers fall further

The news comes at a time when there is a shortage of 40,000 in England alone.

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Save NHS Bursary
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Government plans to remove funding from post-graduate nursing students will lead to trainee nurse numbers falling still further.

The two-year course for those who hold degrees in other subjects remains the faster way to train a registered nurse at a time when there is a shortage of 40,000 in England alone.

The move to take away student support, announced by the Department of Health in February, follows the similar removal of the bursary for undergraduates for the first time last year.

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Today’s Commons debate was secured as a result of opposition pressure, following a report by the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which referenced evidence submitted by the RCN.

Following the removal of the undergraduate student bursary for trainee nurses, applications to university courses fell by a third in two years. Ministers announced extra undergraduate nurse training places last year but did not attract enough students to fill them – 700 fewer students began training in September 2017 than in the previous academic year.

The ever-shrinking workforce.

The current nursing workforce is shrinking, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council regulator and the cross-party health select committee said it must be expanded at “scale and pace”.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The decision to remove undergraduate support resulted in a collapse in trainee applications. Ministers should think very carefully before risking a further drop at a time when our health and social care system is desperately short of nurses.

“This is the quickest way to train top-quality registered nurses and should be expanded, not cut off. The current shortage of nurses is jeopardising safe and effective patient care and the Government urgently needs to encourage more people to enter the profession.”

Last month the RCN arranged for a number of student nurses, who currently receive post-graduate funding, to visit parliament to meet MPs and peers and explain what financial support has meant for them.

No bursary. No nurses.

Michael Lawton, who received the NHS post-graduate bursary and is currently working as a registered nurse, said: “Without the bursary I couldn’t have applied and I wouldn’t be in a career I love, giving patients the great care they deserve. I know I make a difference every day. 

“MPs I’ve spoken to are shocked at how many hours we do in clinical placement. By removing the bursary, the Government is asking people to pay to work on placements to keep the NHS afloat and that isn’t right.”

Current post-graduate nursing student Georgie Ellmore-Jones said: “After my undergraduate degree I was already in a lot of debt. When I looked at pursuing a career in nursing and saw it was funded, it made it more certain in my mind that I wanted to do it. At post-graduate level many of the students have families and children to look after so adding more debt will only discourage potential students.”

Workforce

Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk

It can be “dangerous” when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.

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Patient Falls Risk with IV

There are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone.

NHS figures show that there are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The College says a global shortage of nurses alongside the removal of the nursing bursary has compounded this figure which now sees 12% of posts through the NHS in England without a full-time Registered Nurse.

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Figures from the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) show a 29% overall decline in applications to undergraduate courses since 2015, when the bursary was cut by the Government.

In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the Royal College of Nursing outlines the evidence of the need for a new law that allocates specific legal responsibilities for workforce planning and supply.

A new law is needed.

The report states that in order to address the record number of vacancies, and the gap between the numbers of health and care staff needed to deliver patient care vs. how many are in the system.

Figures included in the report reveal that the number of nursing staff has consistently failed to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for services and the number of emergency admissions.

The report finally makes a further call for legal clarity on the roles, responsibilities, as well as accountabilities, for workforce planning and supply.

In September, after pressure from RCN members, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government for clarity over who is accountable for the nursing workforce.

‘Nurses are working harder than ever’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver safe patient care but are being held back by a system that is legally lacking teeth. Despite the public, patients and nurses all agreeing that clarity is needed on responsibilities for delivering enough nurses, we have yet to see any government pledge anything of the like, and as a result are staring down the barrel at a record 43k empty nursing posts.

“We know how dangerous it can be when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care, but at present, almost all accountability rests with the frontline nurse working on the understaffed ward, rather than those responsible for the system they work in.

“We believe the time has come for change and that patient care was future-proofed by law, and that from the government down, decision makers are held to account.

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Workforce

NHS calls for clarity on who is accountable for the nursing workforce

Figures suggest there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England.

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Working nurses in the CCU

Healthcare leaders are calling for legislation to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have called on the Government to clarify who is accountable for the nursing workforce and the chronic problems it’s currently facing.

Following ongoing pressure from nursing unions, the two organisations met today and recommend that the government should “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear.”

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With around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and thousands more throughout social care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be legally accountable for the workforce.

Along with other health care leaders, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, written to the Government calling for the legislation proposed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

Staff shortages have reached ‘alarming levels’.

Responding to the news, Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the concerns of RCN members and the public and has stated that the issue of accountability for workforce planning and supply remains an area that needs be resolved.”

“In the week after we have launched a major public facing campaign calling for investment in the nursing workforce as well as for accountability to be clarified in the law, yet again, the case is made for this to be taken seriously.

“We are clear that government is well placed to determine how accountability can be clarified in law.

Adding; “Staff shortages have reached alarming levels with at least 40,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the NHS in England alone with thousands more vacancies in public health and social care.

“We now hope government will listen to this message, as well as the voices of the thousands of members that responded to the NHS England engagement process, and bring forward this legislation, taking the opportunity to include accountability in government and throughout the health and care system, for workforce planning and supply.”

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