Early official figures indicate that almost all pre-registration nursing and midwifery training places in England have so far been filled – and in some specialisms exceeded – during the first part of this academic year, which marks the final opportunity for students to receive bursaries.
As a result, workforce planning body Health Education England expects that the overall number of pre-registration nursing and midwifery students enrolled this year will be 1% above target by the end of 2016-17.
“For pre-registration nursing and midwifery, we can be very confident we will hit our workforce plan target”
HEE’s figures suggest that, in the three months up to September, universities recruited more students onto midwifery, adult and mental health nursing courses than was originally planned, and almost the expected number of trainees onto learning disabilty nursing courses.
Nursing Times has also requested the data for children’s nursing courses, but this is yet to be provided by HEE.
Although more people will join courses later in the academic year, the figures so far revealed by HEE give a strong indication of final fill rates due to three quarters of all students usually being taken on in this first period.
HEE council papers show it expects mental health nursing courses to have enrolled 3% more students (103) than planned by the summer. Universities are also projected to take on 1% – or 91 – more students for adult nursing courses than expected.
Midwifery courses are also predicted to fill more training places – around 3% extra. Learning disability nursing courses are expected to fall only slightly short of the target, by 1%, leaving around seven training place empty.
At its latest board meeting on 13 December, the body’s executive director of performance and development, Nicki Latham, said: “For pre-registration nursing and midwifery, we can be very confident we will hit our workforce plan target on all of those areas.
“With learning disability [training places], because we’ve got more cohorts coming up we are confident we will be able to increase [the number of students] to improve the minus 1% [below target],” she added.
Council papers discussed at the meeting said the overall number of pre-registration nursing and midwifery students taken on this year was projected to be 1% – or 307 – above target.
This is in contrast to the end of the last academic year, 2015-16, which saw more than 400 pre-registration training places left empty, representing an overall national shortfall of 2%.
In November 2015, the government announced its controversial plans to remove bursaries for healthcare students, later confirming the proposals in July 2016. As a result, the current academic year is the only one in which students would have known it was their last chance to receive a bursary.
From autumn 2017, new student nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will have to take out loans totalling at least £47,000 to cover tuition fees and day-to-day costs.
Last month, it emerged that the average number of applications to nursing, midwifery and AHP courses in England starting in autumn 2017 was down 20%, compared with the same time the year before.