The Royal College of Nursing has strongly criticised moves by the Scottish Government to slash the number of training places for nurses and midwives by nearly 300 in 2012-13.
The Scottish Government yesterday confirmed that the overall nursing and midwifery student intake for 2012-13 will be 2,430 – compared to 2,700 last year and 3,060 the year before that. The 2012-13 students will graduate between 2015 and 2018.
Ministers said the student intake numbers reflected emerging employment trends in NHS Scotland and the wider healthcare sector, as well as improvements in student attrition which had seen the number of students in training reach an all time high of 10,384.
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “A reduction in intake for the 2012 academic year is a sensible way forward.
“The intake sets a balance between ensuring the right number of nurses and midwives for the future while also minimising the risk of oversupply and graduate unemployment.”
She added: “Any savings made from this reduced intake will be reinvested in measures to support student and newly qualified nurses and midwives. In particular, it will help us support the internship scheme that guarantees newly qualified nurses and midwives with employment when they graduate.”
However, Royal College of Nursing Scotland said it opposed the cut. RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said the latest reduction had not been agreed with the college and that year-on-year cuts in student numbers were “not sustainable”.
She said: “Last year we agreed, reluctantly, to a 12% cut in numbers for 2011-12, but all the evidence we’ve gathered shows that this further cut in numbers in 2012-13 risks there not being enough professionally qualified nurses graduating to meet the demand for health services in the future and that this cut will be bad for patient care.
“While the recent reduction in the number of nursing students dropping out of courses is welcome, it is early days, so to cut the intake further and hope more students will complete the course is very risky,” she added.