A record high number of nurse and midwife training places will be funded in Scotland next academic year.
The country’s health secretary Jeane Freeman revealed today that intake will rise by 7.6% to more than 4,000 in 2019-20.
“We are acutely aware of the demand across Scotland in a variety of settings”
It will be the seventh consecutive year the Scottish government has committed to boosting nurse and midwife student numbers.
As reported by Nursing Times last month, people studying nursing and midwifery will also benefit from an increased bursary from next academic year.
By 2020-21, all students on these courses in Scotland will get £10,000 a year to help cover accommodation and living costs during their studies.
Meanwhile, applications to study nursing and midwifery in England have declined since the ministers in the country scrapped the student bursary in August 2017.
Speaking during a visit to Glasgow Caledonian University, Ms Freeman said: “Our nurses and midwives are critical to the success of our NHS and will continue to be so.
“We are acutely aware of the demand across Scotland in a variety of settings and I want to ensure our NHS is well equipped to continue to provide the best possible care for patients,” she said.
“We are determined to ensure we recruit and retain the next generation of staff to meet these needs,” she added.
“Having the right number of nurses to meet demand is a fundamental step for the safety of patients”
In an increasngly competitive education market following devolution, Ms Freeman also highlighted that bursaries for nurses and midwives in Scotland were currently the best in the UK.
She said: “By increasing this support, which is non-means tested and non-repayable, to £10,000 by 2020-21 we’ll make studying easier for those seeking a rewarding career in our health service.”
The Scottish government also highlighted that almost 460 former nurses and midwives had signed up to retrain since 2015 through its return to practice programme, and that 116 nurse students were being supported with funding to study at the Open University.
Eileen McKenna, associate director of professional practice at the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, said the increase student nurses places was “much-needed”.
“Demand for health and social care continues to increase, nursing vacancy rates are at an all-time high and a significant number of nurses are reaching an age where they can retire,” she said.
“Having the right number of nurses to meet demand is a fundamental step for the safety of patients and in ensuring that nurses are able to remain in the profession,” noted Ms McKenna.
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, also welcomed the news.
“These additional midwife training places were really needed and will go towards future proofing Scotland’s maternity services to ensure that women and their babies will continue to receive safe high-quality maternity care,” she said.
“The RCM believes this increase in student numbers, along with the government’s commitment to sustaining and supporting return to practice programmes, the ongoing provision of bursary support for student midwives are a positive response to the growing midwifery workforce issues across Scotland,” she added.
Dr Ross-Davie said the RCM was also calling for equivalent increases in midwifery lecturer posts and midwife mentors to support the additional students.