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Boost nurse training places to meet demands of students and patients

28 Oct 2015

The number of nurses being trained in the Eastern region needs to significantly increase to meet the demands of health services in the coming years, the Royal College of Nursing says.

Significant cuts to student nursing places – known as commissions – were made by the Government in 2010, affecting the whole of the UK. The RCN’s report, The Fragile Frontline, earlier this year pointed out that as it takes three years for trainees to qualify, these decisions are affecting the supply of nurses now.

New figures obtained by the RCN in the Eastern region show significant interest from would-be nursing students in places on nursing courses in our universities, with demand far outstripping supply in most areas. For full figures contact Eastern region press office.

Figures for the academic year 2015/16 which recently started show that for some courses up to 30 applications were received for every place available.

While not all applicants would have qualified for a place on a nursing degree, the figures help demonstrate the appetite that exists for a career in nursing – something the Government should be capitalising on by increasing commissions and boosting the NHS workforce.

Karen Webb, RCN Eastern Region Director, said: “Generating a larger ‘home-grown’ nursing workforce should be a major priority in our region and across the UK as a whole.

“Nurses from overseas – both from Europe and further afield – play a vital role in plugging gaps in our workforce and our hospitals and care homes would not be able to operate without them.

“But targeting these nurses for recruitment often means we are taking staff away from countries with their own significant challenges providing healthcare.

“If we were to train more nurses in the UK this would go a long way towards filling vacancies in our workforce and prepare for the challenges we face in the years to come providing services to an increasingly ageing population.”

The Government recently decided to place nursing temporarily on the Shortage Occupation List, which means nurses are exempt from immigration rule changes which could have seen hundreds of staff in our region forced out of the country if they were not earning at least £35,000 after six years. The rule applies to those coming from outside the European Economic Area.

Karen added: “The Government has acknowledged, with this reversal, that there is a shortage of nursing staff which needs to be tackled with the help of overseas workers.

“It must now act in the longer term to significantly increase nurse training places so that we have the staff to meet the needs of our patients in the years to come.”

Notes to Editors:

The Royal College of Nursing represents more than 36,000 nurses across the Eastern region, covering Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

To speak to an Eastern region representative, please call Lyndsay Buckland on 01284 717 733 or 0777 303 9477. Email Or Sue Wilton on 01284 717 736. Email

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