The Labour Party has pledged to create 1,000 extra places on nurse training courses this year, as part of an “immediate rescue plan” for the NHS, if it is elected.
The party has announced a seven-point plan that it said was needed to tackle the “crisis” affecting the health service, citing figures for waiting times for accident and emergency and GP appointments.
“More than half of nurses say their ward is dangerously understaffed”
It also stated that more than half of nurses say their ward is dangerously understaffed, in reference to results from a Nursing Times survey carried out in February 2014.
As a result, it said it would “launch an emergency recruitment round for nurses to get 1,000 more into training this year”.
“There will be further measures to increase the number of nurses and other health professionals through incentives for staff to remain in (and return to) the NHS,” it added, but did not provide further details.
Other actions on the plan, published by Labour last night, included a “kick start” to early planning for winter later this year, with GPs stationed in all A&E departments and more clinically-trained NHS 111 staff.
The party said councils, the NHS and charities would be required to work together to identify patients at most risk of admission next winter so support could be provided to keep them out of hospital and that it would “tackle” delayed discharge for those that did end up being admitted.
“We will use that money to support the NHS with our immediate rescue plan – an emergency round of nurse recruitment. Funding for 1,000 extra training places this year”
It also reiterated its pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and that it would raise the necessary funding a tobacco levy and a “mansion tax”, which it has now pledged to introduce in its first budget, if elected.
“Labour has a fully-costed plan to rescue our NHS,” the party stated.
Labour leader Ed Miliband announced the plan today in a speech at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“On their first day in office, Labour ministers will instruct officials to write to colleges and universities, and call on them to reopen admissions for highly-oversubscribed nursing courses this year.
“And we’ll take further action too, so we can get more nurses on the wards straight away, we’ll persuade nurses to stay in practice and to return to practice. This is part of our plan for 20,000 more nurses,” he said, in reference to a manifesto pledge to boost the nursing workforce.
He told student nurses in the audience that his party’s pledge to put in more resources would mean “there are jobs for you to go to in the NHS”.
In response, the Council of Deans of Health said it welcomed “all serious initiatives” to address the current workforce crisis in the health service.
“We welcome all serious initiatives to address the current workforce crisis”
It highlighted the need to find good placements for any extra students and to provide appropriate funding for both universities and placement providers.
Council chair Professor Dame Jessica Corner said: “Although it will be a stretch to recruit students at short notice, if places are made available then we will work with the NHS to get as many suitable candidates as possible on to courses.”
The Royal College of Nursing said it was “good to see a detailed plan for training more nurses immediately”.
Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said 30,000 people had been turned away from nurse training courses last year.
“We know that there is no shortage of potential nurses,” he said. “Now we need the political will to train them.”
But Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb cited the fact that Labour had so far failed to commit to provide the £8bn five-year funding package that NHS leaders believe the service needs.
“Until Labour agree to make the necessary resources available, all they can offer is warm words and nothing more,” he said.
Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have pledged to meet the funding requirement.