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Number of new nursing students with university course place down 8% in England

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Figures released today show that 16,100 nursing students have been placed on a course in England so far – representing an 8% drop compared to 2016.

A further 6,090 students in England have an offer and 13,690 more may be placed via the clearing process.

“These low numbers are filling a leaking bucket. More people are leaving the profession than joining it”

Janet Davies

The figures also indicate the number of new students aged over 25 has dropped by 12% from 2016 – representing change from the profession’s traditional popularity with mature students.

The data analysis, published early on 17 August by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), reveals the picture as it stands on A-level results day 2017.

Across the UK, there were 21,490 placed applicants into nursing courses this year, down 1,330 on last year – a 6% drop.

In addition, the number of UK applicants who have applied to at least one nursing course and available to be placed in clearing is 18,830, a decrease of 10,230 or 35% since last year.

However, the number of applicants who have applied to at least one nursing course, and are still holding an offer for a nursing course, has increased by 180 to 7,370 – a rise of 3%.

The overall drop in students with places follows the government’s decision to replace the student bursary for nursing and midwifery in England with a system of loans.

It claimed the move would free up universities to provide more places for nursing and midwifery students, because they would no longer be constrained by bursary funds.

Meanwhile, earlier today it was revealed that universities and NHS trusts were being offered tens of thousands of pounds by Health Education England in a push to expand training places for nurses and other health professionals this year.

HEE has said it will immediately make available funding for 1,500 extra clinical placements – almost a 5% increase – after the Department of Health announced a £16.4m funding boost last week.

As confirmed by UCAS data published in July, the number of people in England who applied to train as a nurse at university was down by 23% this year.

In addition, during the same month, Nursing Times uncovered evidence that some of universities had chosen to reduce the size of their nursing courses in the wake of the removal of bursaries.

The Royal College of Nursing warned that the numbers joining the ranks of nursing in England were now less than those leaving, and likened the profession to a “leaking bucket”.

It called for “transparency” over how the government intended to monitor its progress towards recruiting an extra 10,000 healthcare professionals in the next five years – the number it targeted when it announced that it was scrapping the bursary.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Even with the possibility of further students being placed in the coming weeks, these low numbers are filling a leaking bucket. More people are leaving the profession than joining it.

Janet davies

Janet davies

Janet Davies

“You don’t have to look far for the reasons why,” she said. “The long-standing pay cap is driving people away from nursing, and under-staffing heaps pressure on those who are left. Most worryingly, we don’t have enough nurses to guarantee patient safety.

“There are simply not enough nurses being trained to plug the 40,000 vacancies in England left by years of poor workforce planning – the situation is unsustainable,” warned Ms Davies.

She added: “The government has promised 10,000 more healthcare professionals in the next five years, but we need transparency over how it intends to monitor its progress.

“We are calling on the government to publish the actual number of nursing students starting this autumn by the end of this year,” she said.

The RCN leader highlighted that, most importantly, ministers must develop a “coherent workforce strategy” that tracked student’s progress into the workforce.

“We are seriously risking the future workforce supply of the NHS2

Jon Skewes

Jon Skewes, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for policy, employment relations and communications, said: “These figures are a clear sign that the government’s plans to boost training numbers are not based on reality.

“The confusion over clinical placement funding and midwifery students’ concerns over taking on tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt has meant we are seriously risking the future workforce supply of the NHS,” he said. “The RCM warned the government time and time again that their plans would deter potentially great midwives that our NHS so badly needs right now.”

He added: “This decision looks even more disastrous now at time when our maternity services are close to breaking point due to understaffing. In England alone we remain 3,500 midwives short. This coupled with younger midwives leaving, an ageing workforce and the loss of EU midwives post Brexit is a complete disaster for our maternity services.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Long hours of hard, stressful work for p--- poor pay, and now the prospect of many thousands of pounds of debt to pay off. What to do on your days off (supposedly for rest and recreation)? More work to make ends meet, or if you don't work, sit home because you can't afford to go out. To attract new nurses, the job needs to be attractive. Right now it is far from that. I guess it shows that the public aren't as thick as the government think they are

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