Nursing application numbers still at crisis point despite small increase
Figures released today by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show the number of student applications in England have risen only 4% on last year with 36,810 people applying to study on nursing courses in 2019. Whilst this is a small increase on 2018 it is still down overall by 29% since 2016, the year in which the bursary, which covered the cost of training to be a nurse, was removed.
This represents an overall fall of 15,030 applications since the change in student funding, which had the stated intention of increasing numbers, and leaves the health and care system in England desperately short of the number of student nurses it needs now and for the future.
The RCN has consistently said that unless there is an urgent commitment to invest at least £1billon into nursing higher education the Long-Term plan for the NHS will not be able to succeed.
On Tuesday, Matt Hancock told the Health and Social Care Select Committee that he is looking at the overall shortage and that incentives are needed, specifically for shortages in areas like mental health, community and mature students.
The RCN student-led campaign #FundOurFuture is calling on the Government in England to commit to this funding to attract more people into the profession by ensuring nursing students get the financial support they need to complete their courses and become the nurses of the future. The government’s inaction has led to another year lost, despite the urgency of the shortage.
With health and care services in England struggling against the background of at least 40,000 vacancies in the NHS and many more in social care, nursing is in crisis and at a real tipping point, putting the ability for nurses to deliver safe and effective care at risk.
Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, said:
“We need to see a much bigger increase if we are to have the number of nurses we need to sustain health and care services and give patients the care they deserve.
“At the moment, with experienced nurses leaving the workforce due to the pressures generated by the shortage, at best we are papering over the cracks.
“We need to see a sustained investment to grow the supply of our future nurses and the urgent delivery of a long-term plan for the staff of the NHS. We cannot do this without a massive increase in the amount of Government funding to incentivise people to study to become nurse and to support them when they are in full time clinical placements.
“Ministers must stop leaving it all to chance. The Secretary of State told the Health and Social Care Select Committee he is looking at financial incentives but this should not be limited as he described.
“The scale of the challenge facing us means he needs to offer more support to large numbers of would-be nurses.
“What we cannot do is continue as we are. We know patient care is suffering and the staffing crisis simply has to be addressed.”