More than 23,000 extra nurses will be trained over the next four years to help meet growing demand in the NHS.
Health Education England has confirmed it plans to train an additional 23,121 whole-time equivalent qualified nurses by 2019, based on workforce levels in 2014-15.
There were 325,000 nurses working in the NHS as of August 2014, Health Education England’s workforce plan said.
“The NHS needs more nurses to successfully complete their degree and then choose to work in the NHS”
The arms-length body, which was established in 2013 to oversee NHS education and training, provided Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal with a breakdown of the number of training places it plans to commission and the level of additional nurses it expects to produce over the next four years.
It said demand for extra nursing staff in 2014, following the Francis report and new safe staffing guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, was the equivalent of 21,000 more WTE nurses than NHS trusts had predicted in 2012.
The scale of the national nursing shortage in the UK last year prompted over 100 trusts to recruit more than 5,7000 nurses from overseas in the 12 months to September 2014.
To try and meet this demand Health Education England is estimating it will commission 97,000 training places between 2011 and 2016. This should produce around 65,000 FTE nurses, taking into account drop-out rates, nurses choosing other work after graduation and some choosing to work part-time.
The national body expects around 31,000 WTE nurses to retire over 2014-19 with a turnover of 14,000 WTE nurses in the same period as a result of nurses returning to practice and the net impact of overseas recruitment.
In the last two years Health Education England has also moderated local plans by NHS trusts and commissioners to increase nurse training places by more than 13%.
Health Education England said together these measures would deliver an additional 23,121 WTE nurses by 2019. This will include:
- 2,630 extra mental health nurses
- 13,048 additional adult nurses
- 5,876 extra children’s nurses
- 1,567 more learning disability nurses
Rob Smith, Health Education England’s interim director of strategy and planning, said: “In the 2014 plan the increase in acute posts required, in response to [NICE] guidance, was over 18,000 WTE, which represented a shift in demand of over 21,000 WTE compared to the trusts’ forecasts submitted to strategic health authorities in 2012.
“The decision of the system prior to Health Education England was to reduce nursing commissions in response to this demand forecast – perhaps a decision that would not have been taken in hindsight,” he said.
“However, it is important to recognise that even if commissions had been maintained then it would only have produced an extra 3,000 WTE by 2016-17 – nowhere near filling the 21,000 WTE demand gap,” he told HSJ.
Mr Smith added: “The NHS needs more nurses to successfully complete their degree and then choose to work in the NHS, whilst at the same time the NHS needs to get better at reducing the number of leavers.
“This allows workforce planning to be dynamic, increasing or decreasing commissions at one end of the spectrum or increasing flexible working and increasing return to practice at the other.”