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London learning disability and school nursing courses face permanent closure

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London South Bank University has launched a consultation about whether to close its learning disability nursing programmes permanently following a drop in applications since student bursaries were removed in England.

As part of the exercise, it is also considering ending its school nursing and occupational health nursing courses due to reduced demand from employers.

“The loss of the NHS bursary…and the move to student loans has had a disproportionate impact on small courses”

 Warren Turner

It follows a similar decision by another course provider, the University of Hertfordshire, which has suspended student recruitment at two of its three sites offering undergraduate learning disability nursing training from September 2018.

As exclusively revealed by Nursing Times in the autumn, London South Bank University (LSBU) cancelled its undergraduate learning disability programme for the current academic year due to a 75% reduction in applications.

However, it continued to run its postgraduate diploma training in learning disability nursing this year – and had originally planned to offer both programmes in 2018-19.

It has since emerged that the university began a consultation last week about whether to scrap both of its learning disability nursing programmes, as well as other health and social care courses.

“There is also a reduced demand for many public health courses which have placed courses….at risk”

 Warren Turner

The government removed bursaries for undergraduate students in England from autumn 2017. In addition, from August 2018, postgraduate bursaries will also no longer be available.

In a statement provided to Nursing Times, Professor Warren Turner, pro vice chancellor and dean of health and social care at London South Bank, said: “LSBU’s current consultation is looking at a proposal to close the learning disability nursing course (BSc and PGDip) from Sept 2018 onwards.

“We are also consulting on proposals for closure of a small number of other courses in health and social care, including occupational health nursing, school nursing, acupuncture and public health & health promotion,” he said.

He said the university was committed to supporting all remaining students on the courses to complete their studies with LSBU.

The consultation will run until 23 May and the university was meeting with staff, students and stakeholders “to ensure that we consider all alternatives to closure where possible,” said Professor Turner.

“We have seen a reduction in applications to learning disability nursing following the recent funding reforms”

Jackie Kelly

“Unfortunately, the loss of the NHS bursary for both BSc and PGDip students and the move to student loans has had a disproportionate impact on small and vulnerable courses like learning disability nursing, which typically attracts more mature students and in smaller numbers,” he added.

“There is also a reduced demand for many public health courses, which have placed courses including school nursing and occupational health nursing at risk” he said.

Meanwhile, the University of Hertfordshire confirmed to Nursing Times that it would not be offering learning disability nursing training at its Reading and Southampton centres next year – but would be continuing to offer the programme at its Hatfield site in 2018-19.

The university said the reforms to student funding had led to a reduction in applications.

Jackie Kelly, dean of the school of health and social work at Hertfordshire, said: “Traditionally as a profession, learning disability nursing has not been as visible as the other fields of nursing, and this has presented challenges for recruitment in the past.

“Learning disability nursing tends to attract a higher proportion of mature applicants”

Jackie Kelly

“Despite these challenges, the University of Hertfordshire has enjoyed enormous success in recruiting to this area, with our graduates achieving 100% employability on completion,” she noted.

“We have seen a reduction in applications to learning disability nursing following the recent funding reforms and removal of the bursary,” she said.

“Learning disability nursing tends to attract a higher proportion of mature applicants and initial indicators on the effect of the new funding arrangements for nursing, midwifery and allied health programmes show a more immediate and significant impact on these mature applicants, who are potentially more averse to taking out a student loan,” she added.

Ms Kelly said the university remained committed to supporting training in this field of nursing, despite the “significant recruitment challenges this area of nursing will face in future”. It was working closely with Health Education England and other bodies to look at new learning models, she said.

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