Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Exclusive: 'disaster' warning follows 12% drop in nurse training places

  • 28 Comments

Nurse training places have been slashed by more than 2,500 in three years, an investigation by Nursing Times has revealed – prompting fears of a “national disaster” in care.

Despite education funding actually increasing over the last three financial years, nursing has been hit hard with 12.7% fewer university places being commissioned by the NHS.

The reduction means that between 2014 and 2015 there will be several thousand fewer nurses graduating than in previous years, which will be further affected by course drop outs. The trend is in contrast to medical training, with has seen an increase in numbers.

Nursing Times collected data on the number of places on healthcare education courses commissioned by strategic health authorities. Analysis reveals there were 20,092 nursing places funded in 2010-11. This fell sharply to 17,741 in 2011-12 and dropped again to 17,546 during the current financial year, 2012-13.

London saw the biggest drop in nurse training places, falling 16% between 2010-11 and 2012-13. The next biggest drop was the Midlands at 13.8%, followed by the North at 11.5%. The smallest drop was in the South, at 9.4%.

David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester and former chair of the West Midlands group of Universities, said: “We are heading straight for a national disaster in two to three years’ time.”

Professor Green, who has previously written to prime minister David Cameron about cuts in nurse training, said the number of places commissioned by SHAs was based on projections by chief executives who were trying to save money.

He said the numbers were “divorced from reality” and not based on the actual need. “There is going to be a shortage, that’s plain to see,” he said.

The data collected by Nursing Times shows the overall Multi Professional Education and Training (MPET) budget for SHAs increased by 2% between 2010-11 and 2012-13, from £4.78bn to £4.87bn.

The number of medical and dental places commissioned at universities rose by 1% from 45,443 to 45,936 over the period.

The number of midwifery training places also rose slightly by 3.6% from 2,488 in 2010-11 to 2,578 in 2012-13. However, the Royal College of Midwives has been campaigning for an extra 5,000 midwives to be recruited to the NHS.

The impact of the fall in nurse educaiton places will be felt the most at acute providers, according to experts. The SHA figures collected by Nursing Times show the number of qualified nurses going on to train for community roles has increased by 2,171 places.

These are likely to be focused largely around health visiting, as a result of the government strategy to find an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015.

James Buchan, professor of health sciences at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, who has carried out research into the changing NHS workforce, said the drop did not surprise him.

He said: “What is clearly happening is the continuation of a trend of reducing the number of nurses put through training, particularly in the adult and acute areas.

“The big question is: are the reductions based on a totally systematic assessment of the likely future need or how much of it is a reflection of budget priorities.”

He said, based on current trends, there would be “significantly fewer nurses in the NHS in five to 10 years’ time.”

He added: “Migration policies are much tougher and it is now very difficult for employers to recruit non-European Union staff. That is a door that is no longer as open as it was 10 years ago.”

As part of the government’s NHS reforms, responsibility for funding education and training places will pass in April from SHAs to the new national body Health Education England.

It will have a budget of £5.5bn with 16 Local Education and Training Boards, which will be responsible for the education and training of the future healthcare workforce.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said:  “Decisions about the number of training programmes and how to split the MPET budget between each of the professional groups are taken locally according to the need of the local providers.

“Decisions take account of anticipated future demand in the local health economy, recent information about student retention and levels of graduate employment.”

  • 28 Comments

Readers' comments (28)

  • tinkerbell

    isn't it strange how in 2010 everything started to go tits up. What happened around about that time?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • yes tinkerbell i wonder!!!

    think the country got an unelected bunch of eton cronies elected who want to privatise our nhs so their rich friends can make money out of ill people..how low can you sink!

    only this morning they announced no rises in the welfare budget..so lets take even more money from the people who can least afford it and give our rich friends a tax cut...unbeleivable, they quicker we get rid of this shower the better

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 18-Sep-2012 9:53 am

    total agreement my esteemed colleague. They are starting to make the mafia look like the WRVS.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    'David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester and former chair of the West Midlands group of Universities, said: “We are heading straight for a national disaster in two to three years’ time.”

    Professor Green, who has previously written to prime minister David Cameron about cuts in nurse training, said the number of places commissioned by SHAs was based on projections by chief executives who were trying to save money.

    He said the numbers were “divorced from reality” and not based on the actual need. “There is going to be a shortage, that’s plain to see,” he said.'

    Weren't we recently discussing the difference between 'having a consultation' and actually listening to what people tell you, somewhere ?

    And how come so many things that are 'plain to see' are invariably invisible to some people ?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There is already a shortage of staff in the NHS, cutting training places by 2,500 is not going to help is it? What genius decided to do that?

    Maybe the shortage in places has something to do with the diploma being totally replaced by the degree?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • scrap the degree, interview potential candidates, open up the training only for those who genuinely want to be nurses and weed out the lazy students who have no interest in being there and are only on the course as it is 'a degree', 'it will help me do something else at the end', 'i want to go travelling with it'.

    bring back the general hospital-based training course with post-reg courses available afterwards.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 18-Sep-2012 12:18 pm

    well said. The is a wealth of talent out there who are missing out.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Cameron is creating the very conditions into which this disaster is being created. He will then say that it is upto the local commissioners to appoint appropriately. Or put another way, is nothing to do with him.

    It is simply another step along the road of changing the NHS from a provider to a commissioner of care.

    However, if demand for nurses goes up (which it will) and supply falls (which it will), conditions are perfect to negotiate a significant pay rise (in real terms). However, when you look atour unions, I wonder if they have the ability to do it, even if the conditions are perfect.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • within the next 3-5 years there will also be a significant number of experienced nurses retiring.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I can't say I am surprised by this news. The school where I trained was told by the Trusts how many nurses they would need in 3 years time (allowing a certain number who would leave the area to work) and adjusted their numbers accordingly and I am sure it is the same elsewhere. So, given the number of nursing posts being cut Nationwide in almost every single Trust, is it any wonder that they are saying they don't need as many new nurses? My Trust, a couple of years ago, had almost entire intake of newly-qualified nurses with no posts for them but had to be given contracts anyway as part of the Trust's contract with the University. Honestly, in the next couple of years, I can see the number of training posts decreasing even further.
    Of course there is the issue of people retiring but I feel the biggest reason for a potential shortage to come is the NMCs attempt to price us out of nursing with their exorbitant, and given the economic climate, brutal registration fee hike....I can see a lot of nurses leaving the profession thanks to this.
    I, for one, am not sure if I want to work in a profession where our Governing Body treats us like mobile cash machines and Trusts treat us like expendable luxuries

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Show 102050results per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.