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The future supply of nurses remains in peril

4 Dec 2017

RCN responds to UCAS figures showing an 18% drop in applications to study nursing.

Nursing students at university

Latest figures released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) reveal a worrying decline in the number of people applying to start a nursing degree. Statistics for 2017 show an 18% drop in applications. 

While this has not translated to a drastic decline in the number of students actually starting nursing courses, it continues a worrying trend. There has been a 0.9% fall in the number of students accepted onto nursing courses across the UK overall, and a 2.6% decline in England.  

Lara Carmona, Associate Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the RCN, said: “These figures show the future supply of nurses remains in peril – we have not seen the increase we need across the UK, despite government promises. 

“In practice this will mean services already struggling to recruit staff will find it even harder. With a record number of people accessing services, it is patients who will pay the price for the Government's failure.”

The number of mature students being accepted onto nursing courses has also decreased, with 13% less nursing students between the ages of 21 and 25 and a 6% decline in those aged 26 or above. 

“Ministers said the removal of the student bursary would mean 10,000 more nurses, and promised a 25% increase in training places this year. This has not happened,” added Lara. 

“The prospect of graduating thousands of pounds in debt appears to have deterred more mature students from applying, denying the profession their valuable life experience. 

“Ministers are risking the health of the nation by failing to train enough nurses. The Government must invest in nurse education to grow the domestic workforce, and provide safe and effective care.”