Community nurses have been urged by a leading academic to help ensure more placements are created to support the government’s expected increase in trainees under a move to student loans next year.
The chair of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents UK university nursing and midwifery faculties, said the body would be “arguing hard” about how placements were managed under the reforms, but claimed government funding to support placements was not set to increase.
“I would encourage you to figure out how we might have a system where it is possible to expand the number of training places”
She said the removal of bursaries and switch to loans for student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals in England from autumn 2017 had the potential to increase the number of training places, but it was still unclear where the accompanying placements would come from.
She added that it was “vital” that more pre-registration students had placements in community settings, in particular to support NHS England’s new “vanguard” models of care that aim to shift care away from hospitals.
Speaking at the Queen’s Nursing Institute annual conference earlier this week, Professor Dame Jessica Corner admitted the end of free education for student nurses in England was a “risky” and “controversial” reform.
But she claimed that continuing with the bursary system would lead to a “car crash”, due to official predictions that funding for nurse training places would in the future be cut by 15%, amid a national shortage of nursing staff.
“If this change hadn’t happened, the most likely thing – because Health Education England told us – was there would have been a 15% cut to funding for universities and, therefore, to training numbers,” she told the audience of community nurses on Tuesday.
“If this hadn’t happened, the most likely thing was there would have been a 15% cut to funding [for] training numbers”
She claimed the system of workforce planning for healthcare staff had failed, which had led to a staffing crisis that would now take at least another decade to solve.
Dame Jessica said alternative routes into nursing, such as apprenticeships at a degree-level, were welcomed by the Council of Deans but would not solve the workforce crisis.
“At the Council of Deans we have got behind this change [move to loans]… because of the impossibility of creating an environment by which we might see the solutions to some of the problems we were identifying,” she said.
She called on community nurses to help design new ways of providing placements for student nurses, but reiterated the funding to support them was not due to be increased.
Dame Jessica Corner
“To meet the vision [NHS England chief executive] Simon Stevens set out, we are going to need many more nurses and AHPs wanting to work in community settings in the new innovative service models you are developing,” she said.
“So finding those placements with you is going to be vital…I would encourage you to figure out how we might have a system where it is possible to expand the number of training places,” she said.
“The tariff and funding pot has not been increased,” Dame Jessica told the audience at the event in London.
“In fact there is absolutely no reason why it couldn’t be increased because we estimate the amount of money that would be needed over the lifetime of parliament to continue to fund placements at the higher level is £15m – a drop in the ocean in budgets and it should be found,” she later added.
The Department of Health has previously said it estimated that the education funding reforms would lead to an extra 10,000 nurse, midwife and AHP training places being created by 2020.
Proposals about how clinical placements will be managed under the reforms are due to be published by the DH later on in the autumn.
A spokeswoman for HEE told Nursing Times that the body had never predicted a 15% reduction in nursing numbers and so was unclear where the 15% figure quoted by Dame Jessica had come from.