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Latest UCAS figures: acceptances onto UK nursing courses down 13%

17 Aug 2023

The RCN says the UK government has ‘stumbled at the first hurdle’ in fulfilling student recruitment promises set out in its NHS workforce plan in England.

Nursing students

New data from UCAS shows that acceptances onto nursing courses are down 13% across the UK. This follows an overall decline in students applying to study nursing.

The data comes amid the nursing workforce crisis. To tackle extreme staff shortages, significant workforce expansion is needed.

Instead, we’re seeing a drop in people joining the profession as university acceptances decline.

The decline in acceptances on to nursing courses in each of the UK nations varies. In England, acceptances are down 13% from last year; in Northern Ireland they’re down 6%; Scotland has seen a 17% decline; and in Wales acceptances are down by 11%.

The figures again call into question the credibility of the NHS workforce plan in England released last month. According to the Health Foundation, the plan, which made commitments to increasing the nursing workforce in England, requires nursing and midwifery training intakes to increase by about 32,000 by 2031-32. 

RCN Deputy Director for Nursing Dr Nichola Ashby said: “Being a nurse is one of the greatest careers any student can choose. But during a cost-of-living crisis, they’re being put off by the prospect of debt, low salaries and poor working conditions.

“The UK government has stumbled at the first hurdle of its NHS workforce plan, with 13% fewer people expected to take up nursing courses this year. These numbers are not just a sad story for today, but a story for years to come of how ministers baked future nursing shortages into the NHS.

“If the NHS workforce plan is to succeed, the UK government must start providing details on how the plan will begin to deliver the students the NHS needs to see for the future workforce. It must fund more university places for nursing students and remove the burden of student debt and tuition fees from prospective nurses in England.” 


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