Only two thirds of health visitor training places were used by the end of the last academic year, while problems filling school nursing and district nursing courses also continued up until the summer.
An official report by workforce planning body Health Education England has revealed just 539 nurses took up health visitor training out of an expected 817 in 2016-17, meaning only 66% of places were used.
The situation is worse than was originally expected. HEE predicted in December it would be able to fill 75% of the places, despite slow recruitment. The problems have continued since the year before, when 15% of health visitor training places were left vacant.
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All other funded specialist nursing courses for last year also failed to recruit as many nurses as planned, according to the report, which forms part of HEE board papers due to discussed at the body’s next council meeting on Tuesday.
School nursing courses had 22% of training places left empty – meaning only 222 were filled out of a possible 284. Around 16% of district nursing training places were not used, meaning 416 were filled out of a target of 496.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, HEE had predicted around this number of places would remain empty by the end of the academic year due to fewer nurses taking up training in the autumn.
In contrast, based on the popularity of practice nurse courses at the time, HEE believed more nurses would train on these programmes than it had planned.
However, by the end of the academic year, 1% of course places were unfilled, with four spaces left empty out of a possible 359.
Smaller specialist courses experienced similar problems, with sexual health nursing programmes filling only two out a possible 10 spaces, community children’s nursing courses taking 14 out of a potential 21 nurses, and occupation health nursing filling 11 out of 19 places.
“We have changed the way we present the data to reflect the comprehensive spending review changes and make it comparable with current and previous data. It is important to stress that this is indicative data and subject to change,” said Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, HEE’s chief nurse and interim regional director for London and the south east.