Thousands of extra clinical placements will be funded in England by 2020 to allow additional nurses to train at university, starting from this year, under workforce plans being drawn up by the government.
The Department of Health is due to make the official announcement later this week but has confirmed to Nursing Times that it would be reinvesting some of the annual £1.2bn it expects to save from removing bursaries for trainee nurses, midwives and allied healthcare professionals.
“We are announcing funding for an extra 10,000 places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals by 2020”
Department of Health
Details about the number of extra placements at NHS trusts and employers that will be available this year are expected to be confirmed next week, when many applicants will receive their exam results and universities begin filling empty spaces on their courses through the clearing process.
Since announcing the move to a loans system at the end of 2015, the government has claimed an extra 10,000 nurses, midwives and AHPs could be trained by 2020. It said this was because the number of course places universities offer would no longer be constrained by funding.
But universities have previously warned that it would not be possible to increase the number of students to this level without additional cash for clinical placements at the same time, noting that nurses must spend at least half of their training in practice.
Health Education England, the government’s arms-length workforce body, has previously said it had no extra money to fund more placements in the 2017-18 academic year.
In addition, the DH was due to release proposals at the end of 2016 about how it would fund clinical placements from 2018 onwards.
- Student bursary removal to go ahead next year, DH confirms
- Placement limits may put brakes on course expansion
- HEE has ‘no money’ to fund extra nurse training posts
However, the government’s latest plans mean that HEE will now receive additional placement money for students starting from this September.
It is understood that the move is part of wider plans to ensure the NHS has more “home-grown” nurses after Brexit, when it is thought fewer European staff will come to work in the UK.
“It’s good to see the Government acknowledging the need for more UK nurses”
The government also wants to reduce the amount of money the NHS spends on hiring agency nurses to fill staffing shortages.
A spokeswoman for the DH highlighted that this year there was still almost double the number of applications to nurse training places, adding that the department was confident the NHS would get the nurses it needed.
“We are announcing funding for an extra 10,000 places for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals by 2020 – which means we can recruit more home-grown talent from the thousands of applications that are rejected each year,” she said in a statement for Nursing Times.
In a story published on Monday trailing the expected workforce plans, The Telegraph reported that the NHS would “recruit an army of British nurses” after Brexit instead of paying expensive agency staff.
Responding to the Telegraph story, the Royal College of Nursing said it was “good to see” the government acknowledging the need for more UK nurses, highlighting that “staffing shortages are one of the biggest threats to patient safety”.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: “There just aren’t enough nurses in training to fill the thousands of vacant posts, and the removal of student nurse funding is only driving down applications further. Meanwhile, the pay cap is forcing many nurses out of the profession they love.
“With Brexit on the horizon, it’s crucial these issues are tackled head on,” she said. “This is about developing a strong and skilled workforce that is treated with respect.”