Nurses working in specialist areas, mental health and schools are bearing the brunt of training cuts, figures obtained by Nursing Times reveal.
The data provides a detailed breakdown of the areas of post-registration nursing training in which regions are investing most – and least – heavily this year.
The number of nurses being trained as health visitors has rocketed from 545 in 2010-11 to 1,546 in 2011-12 – a 184% increase – reflecting the government’s pledge to recruit 4,200 more health visitors by 2015.
The number of health workers being trained in the band 4 assistant practitioner role has also grown significantly, from 881 last year to 1,607 this year.
But strategic health authorities are funding just 91 new advanced or specialist practitioners, down from 119 last year. There are only seven places on community mental health nursing training courses – down from nine the previous year – and 206 on school nurse courses, compared with 212 last year.
No region is paying for new emergency care practitioners to be trained, after training 132 last year. The relatively new emergency care practitioner role allows specialist nurses to treat patients with urgent conditions in their homes.
NHS East Midlands will not be paying for any new district nurses this year but commissioned 14 last year. In 2010-11 it trained 12 new school nurses but will not be training any this year.
The figures also confirm places on pre-registration nursing courses have dropped by 10% this year across the country. This varies from an 18% drop in the West Midlands to a 4% reduction in the North East.
Overall, places on degrees, as opposed to diplomas, are increasing due to the move to an all-graduate nursing workforce, but child nursing degrees are being reduced by 7% in the North West and 4% in the South West.
Royal College of Nursing acting education advisor Gill Robertson said: “We’d be concerned to see reductions in training for school nurses and in child nursing given the obesity agenda. It’s strange that costs seem to be getting taken out of primary care when that’s where the focus of care is meant to be going.”
She added that, despite financial pressures, it looked unlikely that nursing students would be asked to contribute towards their university tuition fees. At a meeting with unions two weeks ago, health minister Anne Milton confirmed such a move was “not on the agenda”, according to Ms Robertson.
Post registration training commissions
2010-11 2011-12 % increase
Health visitors 545 1,546 184
School nurses 212 206 -3
Occupational health nurse 33 11 -67
Community nurse mental health 9 7 -22
Emergency care practitioners 132 0 -100
Advanced/specialist practitioner 119 91 -24