I’ll do the maths. By 5 January 2018, the closing date for UCAS, there had been 32,520 applications to study nursing. A year before there had been 48,230; that means 15,710 fewer people applied to do nursing in 2018. If that trend continues there will be around 16,810 people applying to study nursing in 2019. In 2020 there will be 12. Twelve people will apply to study nursing
Of those 12, only nine will begin the course. One of them will not pass the maths test (despite my offering to help them and being demonstrably very good at maths), one will change their mind at the last minute and decide to go travelling with their boyfriend Tom. The chief nursing officer will try to stop her, rugbytackling her on the Newhaven ferry and pleading with her to stay. The third person – we will call him Ralph – will decide to do geography instead. His mother, a nurse of some 23 years, will be so relieved she will buy him a poster with lots of different clouds on it.
So, in 2020, nine people will begin their nurse training. Everyone will know their names. Two of them will be doing mental health nursing. We will all worry about them very much. A lot will be expected of these nine people. They will have to pass modules, exams and accumulate competencies. Three of them will work with a nurse called Janet who will tell them that their training is far easier than it was back in her day (1972) when student nurses had subsidised accommodation, salaries, guaranteed jobs and free bus travel. One of those three students will be called Tanya. Tanya will be accumulating £14,000 of debt each year, have two part-time jobs and will have to pass competencies in things she will Mark Radcliffe never ever do again. At the end of her training she will have to sell body parts so she can register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Tanya will put Janet in the sluice. Nobody will mind.
Halfway through the course, three of the 2020 cohort will begin to have doubts about their chosen profession. They will feel unable to do the job they had hoped to. The lack of beds, resources, equipment, walls and other students, along with £28,000 of debt, force one of them to go to her personal tutor for support and advice. He gives her 52% for her last essay and suggests she read more Peplau. She leaves nursing to become a member of the cabin crew with Eurowings. Six weeks later her tutor writes to her to ask if she could get him a job.
So six people from the 2020 cohort will complete their training. One will instantly take up a post with a drug company. Three of them take jobs with the NHS. They will have plenty of choice, indeed every chief executive in the country will visit them and bring cake. The chief execs will run the hoover round and promise to do their ironing for them every Sunday if only they will come and work for their trust.
In 2021, nobody will apply to study nursing. In 2022, -12,043 people will apply to study nursing.
Removing the bursary was an attempt to save money and fund nursing faculties appropriately. If you make sense of the world via a spreadsheet there is a naive argument that suggests it makes sense. If you look beyond that to the wards, the profession, the student experience and the mentality of nursing, it was always ridiculous. Call it an experiment, a practical joke, a mistake. Call it what you like but we should stop it now. We are throwing our young under buses and calling it good economics. We should be ashamed.
Mark Radcliffe is author of Stranger than Kindness.
Follow him on twitter @markacradcliffe