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Anxiety over funding row 'could see nursing courses close'

Universities are considering scrapping nursing courses due to uncertainty over future funding, education leaders have claimed.

Meanwhile, a legal expert has warned that Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) are at risk of breaching their contracts with universities by failing to boost funding for nursing degrees.

It is the latest twist in fraught negotiations between the university sector and Health Education England, which has been accused of taking a “crazy risk” with the future of the nursing profession by attempting to impose a 4% real terms cut in funding for nursing courses.

“We’re really worried universities will wonder whether it’s worth doing, because it looks like they may not cover costs”

Jessica Corner

The legal advice (see PDF top-right) was sought by the Councils of Deans of Health and Universities UK, which are fighting the proposed cuts on behalf of universities that offer nursing and midwifery courses.

Although a new academic year is about to start, the two bodies and HEE have failed to agree a benchmark price – the nationally agreed amount of money universities get for each nursing place – and contracts have simply been rolled over.

However, LETBs have continued to pay a flat rate without adding an agreed “uplift” in line with inflation. In his advice, leading barrister James Goudie QC argued that the uplift should continue to apply to the majority of contracts.

Professor Steve West, chair of Universities UK’s health education and policy research network, said Mr Goudie’s opinion “makes it clear the government must honour its contracts with the higher education sector, including on price”.

Council of Deans chair Dame Jessica Corner said the ongoing stalemate in negotiations was causing “frustration” and claimed universities were beginning to think about scrapping courses.

Jessica Corner

“With the uncertainty and very real threat of significant funding cuts to education of nurses…, we’re really worried universities will wonder whether it’s worth doing, because it looks like they may not cover costs,” she told Nursing Times.

“We’ve been consulting members in the council and all kinds of universities [are] beginning to think twice,” she said.

Another university representative accused HEE of taking a “crazy risk”, given that many trusts were already shortage of nursing staff. “If three, four or five large providers decide not to provide courses it would have a disastrous impact on future supply of qualified nurses,” said the source.

Health Education England spokeswoman said: “The senior teams of universities representatives and HEE representatives are meeting on the 8 September to discuss and agree the future of the benchmark price.

“We will not be able to make any further comment until this meeting has taken place.”

Readers' comments (29)

  • The present Gov has chipped away at the very foundations of the welfare state and this is yet another example. We need a voice to shout this to the nation, someone to put all of these small chips together to show how they mean that the whole edifice will fall and then they (Gov) will argue that there is nothing to be done. What has happened to the Labour Party why has it moved away from its original roots . As one of my student hoping to go onto a Nursing degree said 'How can you expect to have caring nurses when nobody cares about them!' My students are over 19 mature student who have a good deal to give but may again end up being denied.

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  • Lets go back 16 years and do it properly After 3 even 4 years have properly trained nurses who knew their job and didnt arrive at work stressed out.
    The NMC have a lt to answer for in this debate All they want is the money

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  • You could not make it up could you? Nurse number shortfalls envisaged for the near future so what do the powers that be do? Start playing silly beggars with money and funding and all to save a few pounds which they are no doubt squandering elsewhere on some hair brained scheme. Just had a conversation with colleagues this morning about the state we are all in and the general agreement is that we are all going to hell in hand cart. I bagsy the front seat :-)

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  • Why train our own when we can "import " foreign nurses cheaper !!! That is this governments thinking.! Heaven help us. don't ever fall ill & need care because you won't get it, not in english anyway !!!!

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  • it will be all health care support workers and no registered nurses soon, as it is cheap, in fact, I doubt there will beany doctors, why not go the whole hog and just get volunteers in, evidently the government don't want to waste money training

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  • This is sad. All the news I'm hearing is putting me off nursing. I'm partway through my access to nursing course, but am considering just going for a 'normal' job at the end of it.

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  • All of this is why after 30 years of nursing, I have had enough....the country is rotten to the core, the profession has lost its way and I have had ENOUGH...bye bye nursing!

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  • what on earth is happening to this country? not only does the NMC want more money now it seems that people who want to care for others won't be able to. Lets go back to SEN and RN and basic care
    I'm nearly at the end of my career and going to retire but unfortunately not for another 5-6yrs but even now I'm thinking of leaving. Maybe floristry, I can do a nice funeral bouquet for the NHS!!!

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  • Here we go - full circle and back to school of nursing in NHS sites once again. The NHS can never move on or invent new ways. It always goes full circle and arrives back to where it started. Vicious cycle I say and time for it to break.

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  • Like others who have posted I am glad to be within 3 years of retiring - but after giving 35 years of service I dread to think what service will be available as I age. It's very disappointing.

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  • I'm due to retire in three and a half years too, and may do two days a week, but if this calamitous state of affairs continues, I may not bother.

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  • So so sad. I started training in 1965 a good old fashioned 3yrs training at Queen Marys Hosp for Children then 18mnths at Queen Marys Hosp. Sidcup. This was proper training not some ponsy uni which teaches how to manage,computers and report writing. Yes get rid of the uni's lets go back to training on the job then we will get nurses who really know how to care and be compassionate.

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  • Nursing is a practical vocation/profession. Be careful for promoting a degree course as the only training, the old 3 year diploma produced nurses who knew their stuff.
    By all means offer a degree course but to do away with the practical hospital based training is not wise.

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  • tinkerbell

    this gov will be remembered for all the harm they have done to society as a whole. They have dismantled and fragmented the NHS, demonised the weak and vulnerable. Unfortunately the full impact is not being felt by all yet and some remain ignorant of how bad it is to become. Very sad times for our society.

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  • The best training is on the job as it used to be, the downhill spiral started with the P2K training and it has gone from bad to worse.
    I have been qualified 32 years and still have 15 to go (now the pension age has risen).
    They are losing so many excellent nurses because they are not university level academically minded. Who gives a damn if they can write a dissertation about a research subject which is so obscure that it is forgotten after submitted. Because they do not like to get their hands dirty most of the time.
    Train on the wards and the odd week in school to consolidate.
    Money paid out is wasted, commissioners who have no idea about nursing decide what we are going to do or have.
    Go back to senior nurses and Matron (if necessary, not the modern Matron) to run hospitals not some ex manager of Tesco or Sainsbury's. because last I looked I am not a grape to be sold by the pound.
    Needed to rant sorry.

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  • God what a ridiculous set of comments blaming the usual suspects of NMC and P2k. Have you actually read the report above? It seems some have a stock response and lack the ability to follow a fairly simple storyline (govt. cuts). I'm fed up of pre P2k nurses knocking nursing education over the last 20-30 years. Ridiculous.

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  • As a student nurse I think degrees are necessary to give the nursing profession credibility from an academic level aswell as vocational. I think the nurses who are bitter about degree nurses are threatened as thy don't have the academia and compassion. People can be compassionate, caring and very hands on as well as having the intelligence to write a dissertation. All needs are covered then and the patient receives better care.

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  • As a very mature student about to start her access to nursing course, this is extremely alarming. I want to roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty but accept that the academic route is the only way to achieve my goal of becoming a nurse. I want to meet real patients not plastic dummies and role players. If the practical hands on element of training is removed, nursing may as well be taught via OU. Some young people fresh from college discover that the reality of nursing may not be for them. Far better to discover while at Uni then as they qualify and go on the wards.

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  • I have been in post as a research nurse for 7+ years and visit wards on a daily basis. I provide training in the research protocols that are being undertaken in the ward areas. I have 25 years experience in the subject I am researching and consider myself a very approachable, friendly and professional person. The uptake of training in conjunction with the ward sister has been very poor from student nurses and I have only ever had one student nurse who has shown a real interest in showing an interest in 'live' research. I find it hard to believe that students ' supposedly practice EBP', yet show very little interest in research that is going on under their noses.

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  • I concur with all the above.I have just completed a return to practice course and wish I hadn't bothered.
    It most definitely all started with P2K and went from bad to worse.
    Bring trained Nurses back to caring at ground level- being responsible for all the requirements of a patient;from washing/dressing them to referring to OT,Physio,social workers etc.AND of course all the clinical needs.
    Lets go back to old fashioned Schools of Nursing,attached to Hospitals, where students worked for a salary as responsible professionals in their own right-as part of the ward team-as well as studying.I was so confident and 'hands on' when I got 3 stripes on my hat for 3rd year student!!!
    Happy to run the ward with someone to keep an eye on things.
    Bring back all the good stuff, SEN's etc.and chuck out the new fangled,politically correct nonsense.
    Not so sure about bringing back the hats though :)

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