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The funding of placements is good news, but is it too little, too late?

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Good news! Thousands more university placements will be funded in England by the government to allow more students to train as nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.

On the face of it, this looks like a positive story. The government is seeming at last to understand that financial support is needed to help chip away at the huge workforce crisis.

We broke this news the day before the Department of Health officially announced it on Wednesday. But now, a few days on, we still aren’t sure what it actually means for the profession, or for applicants.

And to be fair, I am not sure anyone at the DH has particularly planned that far ahead either.

“You couldn’t grow the nursing workforce without providing more placements.”

The funding of placements was queried by members of the profession back when the government first talked about removing the bursary and was predicting the move would create 10,000 more training places by 2020.

Because let’s face it, with 50% of the student nurse course completed in practice, you couldn’t grow the nursing workforce without providing more placements – and that was going to require money.

However, the DH has remained fairly tightlipped on the subject until this week, never quite showing its hand on the matter, and leaving both universities and placement providers in the dark.

How could trusts really offer their local education providers extra placements when they were unsure if they could afford it? As a result, many universities have worked hard to find placements for their extra intakes, but many have struggled.

Now, on the eve of the A-level results being announced next week – there is a real danger we might not fill some nursing courses. And dare I suggest that that the government are starting to panic?

“There is a real danger we might not fill some nursing courses.”

The removal of the bursary – the miracle cure that was intended to open up the floodgates and allow thousands more healthcare professionals to train – seems to have, well failed.

The DH’s spin is that universities can now recruit from the “thousands” of applicants that are rejected each year. But is that really telling the whole story, now the bursary has been removed, and applications for student nurse places are down by 23%?

There is a distinct possibility of needing to bolster student numbers in certain areas of the country and in certain courses. Quite a few universities are telling us that, even if they can keep going with certain courses for the 2017 intake, for example, in learning disabilities, they will probably lose them in 2018.

Faced with this prospect, the government is trying to make training to become a nurse more attractive by offering funded placements to make sure students can find somewhere to practise while on their course.

But what will this mean? Will the government only offer the money to parts of the country where universities are struggling to recruit, or into certain branches or courses where application numbers are low?

“The government is trying to make training to become a nurse more attractive by offering funded placements.”

Will this compel universities to take on students who are not that suitable just to fill numbers and make sure their intakes offer a suitable return on investment?

While supporting our home-grown talent certainly looks more sustainable in the long-term in the light of Brexit, is this move going to have the effect the government hopes it will?

Will universities have already capped their cohort sizes based on the placements that trusts thought they could offer them, and now find it too late to change them?

As with all its workforce planning, the government seems to be in reactive mode, and doing too little, too late. What a shame it wasn’t more open about these plans at the outset when the bursary was removed. Anyone get a sense that some of this is being made up as we go along?

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • "Anyone get a sense that some of this is being made up as we go along?"

    Like most govt and NHS policies at the moment.

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