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Ministers announce 3% rise in Scottish student nurse places

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The Scottish Government has announced a rise in the number of places for student nurses and midwives, which it says will see this year’s recommended intake rise above 3,000 students.

Ministers announced today that the nursing and midwifery student intake for the 2015-16 academic year would total 3,038, meaning there will be 608 more places than last year and representing a 3% rise.

“We have funded an increase in the number of nurses and midwives in training again this year by a further 3%, on top of the 6% increase last year”

Shona Robison

It is the third consecutive year that there has been an increase in nursing and midwifery student places. However, the recent intake rises follow a sustained period of cuts to places, which last year saw the total number of nurses in training fall to their lowest level for six years.   

Ministers also said today that an extra £450,000 will be provided over three years for a “return to practice” scheme to encourage former nurses and midwives back into the profession.

The funding will pay for around 75 former nurse and midwives to retrain each year and re-enter employment, according to the Scottish Government.

Speaking during a visit to Dundee, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: “We are not only increasing the numbers of qualified nurses and midwives in our hospitals now, we are also planning for the future.

“We have funded an increase in the number of nurses and midwives in training again this year by a further 3%, on top of the 6% increase the Scottish Government announced last year,” she said.

“Health boards are struggling to ensure they have enough nurses to deliver safe and effective patient care”

Ellen Hudson

However, while welcoming the increase, the Royal College of Nursing called for student place planning to look further ahead than just annually.

RCN Scotland associate director Ellen Hudson said: “With the cuts to nursing student intake numbers in 2011-12 and 2012-13 now feeding through and high numbers of nurses retiring, health boards are struggling to ensure they have enough nurses to deliver safe and effective patient care.”  

She described the increase for 2015-16 as “another step in the right direction” following last year’s increase, but said the RCN was concerned “about the short term, annual model for determining how many student nurses we need”.

“Surely it would be more effective to move to a three-year model so health boards, health and social care partnerships and the universities which provide nursing education programmes can plan better in the future,” she said.

Matt McLaughlin, lead nursing organiser for Unison Scotland, welcomed the increase in student places and the investment in return to practice schemes.

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