Boost in training places 'will do little' to solve recruitment crisis

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Will student nurses be put off? Will student nurses be put off by the state of the profession?

The ‘biggest ever expansion’ of the NHS medical workforce will be brought on by an increase in the number of training positions, according to the government’s latest announcement.

As part of its bid to train 1,500 extra doctors a year, the Department of Health will continue its drive next year by will offer 500 new places and mark out another 1,000 for organisations who will ‘bid’ to target candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Working with Health Education England, the government is also aiming to offer clinical placement funding for the training of 10,000 extra nurses and midwives, with some positions available as soon as this year.

Extra places for nurses, midwives, doctors and allied health professionals will see approximately 100,000 training places available between now and 2020 in a 11% increase on current figures, according to the government.

‘We’re committed to giving more talented students the chance to be part of our world-class NHS workforce,’ said health minister Philip Dunne. ‘Not only is this the biggest ever expansion to the number of doctor training places, but it’s also one of the most inclusive.

‘For too long, a cap on training places has meant thousands of talented students are rejected from university courses each year despite meeting requirements for medicine or nursing. These students will now be able to fulfil their potential as our future NHS nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.’

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The government said demand for training places has always been high, their latest figures showing 45,000 students applied for 23,000 nurse training places in 2017. This has led over the years to thousands of applicants missing out despite having the required grades.

However, UCAS data recently revealed that the total number of applicants for UK study has fallen by 12,610 (19%) in 2017, compared to 2016. The number of candidates applying from England has fallen by 23%.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) disputed the government’s faith in its initiative, saying that factors like the scrapping of student nurses’ bursaries and the pay cap on qualified nurses’ wages will continue to discourage candidates from applying.

‘Any investment in training placements for nursing students is welcome news but it will do little to solve current nursing shortages,’ said RCN chief executive Janet Davies. ‘The health and care system desperately needs proper workforce planning.

READ MORE: Students turn away from nursing as applications fall 'dramatically'

‘It’s unclear where extra nursing students will come from, when the removal of student funding is putting many people off entering the profession and the pay cap is forcing many nurses out of the job they love.

‘It’s time for ministers to face facts: they will struggle to build a strong and resilient workforce unless they lift the cap on pay and reinstate student funding.’

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