The first ever national workforce plan for the NHS has been approved this afternoon by Health Education England, promising a 9% increase in the number of training places for nurses.
The national plan details how HEE will spend its £5bn education and training budget spread across 110 healthcare professions to ensure the NHS can meet the future demand and service change.
In an attempt to reverse the decline in nurse training and to tackle a growing shortage of nurses on hospital wards, HEE will commission 13,228 university places for trainee nurses from 2014-15, an increase of 1,094 on the 2013-14 level.
This could result in 2017 seeing the largest number of qualified nurses ever produced in 2017, according to HEE.
The rise in nurse training comes after the Francis report led to a growing recognition of the need to have sufficient nurse numbers to deliver safe high quality care. HEE has also previously announced it will take a lead in trying to help fill gaps in the nursing workforce through a return to practise campaign.
The national workforce plan also reveals a 2.7% rise in the number of GP training places – an increase of 222. This is in line with the government target of ensuring 50% of medical students become GPs.
Overall there will be no change in the number of medical and dental training places at universities, with 6,970 places commissioned in 2014-15.
The consultant workforce has increased 53% since 2002, with an expected annual increase of 1,800 consultants this year.
Due to the length of medical education and training this increase in the medical consultant workforce is guaranteed until at least 2020, the report says.
Overall there will be a 3% rise in the numbers of allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and dieticians on 2013-14 levels. This includes a 30% increase in the numbers of paramedics.
HEE will also increase the numbers of post-graduate emergency medicine trainee places by 5.6%, a total of 20 new posts in what is known as the acute care common stem. There will be a 2.5% rise in overall emergency medicine training with 1,060 training posts.
Jo Lenaghan, strategy and workforce policy director at HEE, said the changes in nurse numbers demanded by local trusts was not a “knee jerk reaction to Francis but a paradigm shift” in how the workforce and its relation to patient care was now viewed by providers.
She added: “We are trying to make sure that when a patient turns up in a healthcare setting with a need that they are able to be seen by a professional with the skills needed to meet that demand.”
HEE chief executive Ian Cumming said: “This is the first time that a workforce plan for England has been produced. This is the culmination of a huge amount of work.
“It brings together a range of views from our 13 LETBs [local education and training boards], local employers and stakeholders.”
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It’s important and welcome news.
“We’ve seen an almost 15 per cent cut in the number of nursing student places commissioned since 2009-10 while pressures on the health service have continued to increase.”
He added: “It’s vital that a long-term, sustainable approach to workforce planning is developed. Ensuring that we have enough trained nurses to keep up with demand is vital for patient safety across the NHS for now and for the future.”
Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.