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The government could not afford this workforce gamble


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.


Readers' comments (4)

  • I was one of lucky ones having just graduated as a mature student nurse. On my course we lost most nurses when placements started. Such a shame as many would have made great nurses. A physically and academically challenging course as well as the financial hardship involved I only see situation getting worse. It will be interesting to see how attrition rates are affected.
    This government has done so much damage to staff morale and already, as I start out on my career I feel undervalued.

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  • As a mature student and a newly qualified nurse I have had to take a job in the private care sector. I simply could not afford to support my family on a newly qualified staff nurse salary, and I had a bursary so do not have a mountainous student debt to repay. I really fear for the future of nursing.

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  • I did my nursing education in another country where I use student loans and worked in off term times to fund my education. It is not the fact that I had to fund my education, which I believe does to a point help segregate those who are committed to the profession of nursing, but it is the fact that I made a good salary once I graduated that enabled me to pay back my student loans. This government can't have it both ways, take away a funding source and continue to pay nurses at such a low and insulting pay scale once they completed their education!

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  • Unversities will do all they can to get "bums on seats", but most undertaking a nursing degree will never become registered nurses. Glad I can retire soon and sad to see what`s happening to the NHS and it`s workforce.

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