You remember the government’s plan to increase the number of registered nurses? It was the really well thought-through one about removing the bursary to open the floodgates to all those people who wanted to pay for the privilege of becoming a registered nurse.
The government decided that if it no longer funded training places for nursing then all those people who failed to make it onto courses would be able to become nurses, the workforce crisis would be at an end, and we’d all live happily ever after – with a bounteous supply of nurses to look after us in our dotage.
Only of course, the government made this decision without really thinking it through or having any evidence of the impact of the removal of the bursary. Or indeed having a “Plan B” for the circumstances we find ourselves in now, where applicants are down 23%. And of course, who knows how much the attrition rate will be affected once the students start their courses and feel the pinch of paying for it all themselves?
“The government announced that the aim of the move was to increase the number of nurses training by 10%”
Cynics may say it was all just a cost-saving exercise but the government announced that the aim of the move was to increase the number of nurses training by 10%. And that plan already looks pretty shaky.
Of course, it should be noted that the new UCAS figures are about applicants not actual course fill rates and, while nursing school representatives claim numbers will bounce back, I am concerned that universities keen to balance the books will take on students who will not make good nurses and that those who cannot afford the fees – from less well-off backgrounds, for example – will be deterred from applying.
“I am concerned that universities will take on students who will not make good nurses”
I appreciate that education needed a funding reform, as the tariff system made running nursing courses economically unviable for many universities. However, the government should have considered that, in the wake of an existing nursing shortage, Brexit causing uncertainty for overseas nurses, an ageing workforce nearing retirement and pay cuts making it nigh impossible to retain staff, that they could not afford to gamble with the supply of newly qualifieds.
But they did. They’ve potentially made the workforce crisis even deeper – and eroded the graduate profession significantly in the space of just one year.