Labour would have to address a shortage of funding to universities if it were to deliver on its pledge for 36,000 extra NHS staff if it won the next election, according to healthcare education leaders.
Dame Jessica Corner, chair of the Council of Deans of Health, which represents 85 universities, also raised concern about whether the service could provide suitable placements for such large numbers of staff.
“We would want to be very careful we do not go back to the boom and bust of workforce planning”
It follows Labour leader Ed Miliband’s announcement yesterday that he would give the service a £2.5bn fund, which he said should pay for an additional 8,000 GPs, 20,000 nurses, 3,000 midwives and 5,000 care workers.
Dame Jessica, who is also dean of health sciences at Southampton University, said institutions were currently under pressure from gaps between the funding they get from the NHS and the cost of running courses.
She said: “To deliver quality safe patient care, we are talking about graduate nurses prepared in universities. As a sector the universities would be up for looking at this, but at the moment there is a funding gap per student nurse per university, which is causing pressure on universities.
“Increases will need to be properly funded and paid for to be able to do this and do it well,” she said. “We would want to be very careful we do not go back to the boom and bust of workforce planning which we have had in the past.”
She also raised concerns over the ability of the NHS to provide suitable placements for students and for existing NHS staff to supervise them.
She said: “There could be pressures here and we also know the supervision capacity within the NHS is a problem and needs to be strengthened. We need to look carefully at what is the best model for doing this.”
Dean Royles, director of human resources at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and until recently the chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “It’s great to see a serious debate developing about the future funding of the NHS.
“I do wish though that there was less emphasis on particular types of staff, [for example] more nurses or more midwives, and greater debate about the skills and competencies required to treat patients in the optimum way.
“This may involve, for example, different skill mix and more use of therapists as well as nurses,” he said.