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Universities plan 'significant expansion' in nurse education places, says HEE

  • 9 Comments

A “significant expansion” in nurse training places is being planned at some universities next year to coincide with the switch to a loans system for healthcare students in England, according to the national NHS workforce planning body.

Despite widespread opposition to the move, from autumn 2017, pre-registration nursing, midwifery and allied health professional students will no longer receive a bursary for living costs or have their tuition fees paid for by the government.

““Those [conversations] have been productive and have clearly pushed out a significant difference in opinion”

Ian Cumming

Students will instead take out loans to pay for their training and day-to-day expenses, which will amount to at least £47,000 of debts for a three-year course according to government estimates.

Arguing in favour of its policy, the government has said its education funding reforms would allow universities to provide an additional 10,000 student nurse, midwife and AHP training places by 2020.

In contrast, unions and other opponents of the move have suggested that it will make nursing a less attractive career option for potential students.

But at a Health Education England board meeting on Tuesday, the body’s chief executive and chair both said they had been told by some universities that plans were afoot to recruit more students to their healthcare courses next year.

HEE chair Sir Keith Pearson said a couple of universities expected to take on “extremely high” numbers of students in the 2017-18 academic year.

“To have a year of stability, we will have a rollover of placement funding”

Ian Cumming

The body’s chief executive, Professor Ian Cumming, echoed his comments, stating that he had also been told by some universities that certain course specialties were planning a “very significant expansion in numbers”.

He later told Nursing Times that such plans included courses for children’s nursing and adult nursing. However, he was unable to say which universities were planning an expansion and by how much.

Professor Cumming told the board the universities had not written to HEE to formally confirm the details of their planned expansion in training places, noting that they were now competing with each other.

He said HEE expected to receive more information about changes to cohort sizes and potentially new courses across the country by January.

HEE will continue to fund placements for students from 2017 onwards, but earlier in the meeting Professor Cumming reiterated that the body would not be increasing its budget to do so.

He said HEE had been running a consultation about how to allocate the money in the future, to ensure potential new courses could be supported.

NHS national director for quality Ian Cumming

Ian Cumming

Ian Cumming

“Those [conversations] have been productive and have clearly pushed out a significant difference in opinion in terms of how we should best be using this resource – whether or not the resource should be given to higher education institutions, whether or not the resource should be given to the NHS and how do we make sure we don’t discriminate against new market entrants who may wish to start offering nursing and AHP degrees in the future,” he said.

However, during the first year of the reforms in 2017-18, money will be allocated to the same placement providers that are currently funded.

“What we’ve said for next year is, to have a year of stability, we will have a rollover of placement funding,” said Professor Cumming.

”So, unless there is a material change in somebody stopping offering a course, for example, then the money in 2017-18 will go to the same [placement providers] as in 2016-17,” he told the board.

  • 9 Comments

Readers' comments (9)

  • But what about their placements and supervision in clinical settings, yes you can cram them into university lecture theatres but what about the service? How many universities had to use clearing houses this year to fill places and we haven't seen any UCAS data yet.

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  • I was going to make precisely the same point.

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  • There aren't enough clinical placements! Unless we use Brexit to decrease 2300 clinical hour requirements, there aren't enough mentors. End of.

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  • It is true there universities are struggling to find mentors and placement for the current level of students. Not only that is also the fact that we work really hard for 370 hrs per placement, twice a year. New students will have to do it for free, in fact they will have to pay for it.
    Also mature students will not be able to afford to do the course at all. It is hard enough as it is as many of us have to work nights on top of placements and studying to be able to survive, as we have families and mortgages to pay. We do it for the love of nursing, but will they next year?
    Good luck!

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  • They refused to say; which universities and by how much of an increase. Therefore, why bother listening. There are rumours among lecturers about numbers / cohorts decreasing for general nursing at my university? The universities who claim to have this so called influx, clearly have only attracted the attention of the uneducated. Who in the right mind would punish themselves for three whole years with little or no social/family life, money or job (officially-as study comes first). To be in around £50k debt for a £21.8k annual sallary? I think if their numbers are up, it's only because people don't realise the bursaries are ceasing.

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  • How will next year's students feel when on placements alongside this year's students (who will be next year's 2nd year students), knowing the huge disparities in their financial situations... It could cause some ill feeling...

    while doing my Access course last (academic) year and becoming unwell while doing the course myself, I decided to wait to go to Uni not knowing how my mums health would pan out - this has consequently cost me a potential £51k. My mum is doing OK(ish) now, but it's still bitter-sweet because of the consequences. Do I want to get me in thatuch debt when I could be paying my mortgage off - not a loan to work for the NHS!

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  • 20 October, 2016 11:24 pm "Who in the right mind would punish themselves for three whole years with little or no social/family life, money or job (officially-as study comes first). To be in around £50k debt for a £21.8k annual sallary?"

    People that really want to be nurses and see it as a vocation rather than a cheap degree??

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  • Working at a University and analysing our open day figures for nursing, I can report that numbers are down by 35% in some instances from last year. This optimism by the government is what I would call wishful thinking. Unless Universities are not bound by placement availability, I fail to see how they can expand their numbers unless they diversify their course offerings to open more placement opportunities. Unless 'said universities' are poaching placements from other geographic areas?

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  • It's great that they are planning on higher numbers but reality is nursing is a tough profession and we only want to recruit people who really want to do it. sitting on joint interview panels there are people who really have no idea what it is about and don't show any attributes required of a nurse - that's why they get rejected mainly not because there are not enough places.
    Just about had enough of my 30 year career such a shame.

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