The Conservative Party have committed to increasing the size of the nursing workforce by 50,000 by 2024, in a pledge outlined in their manifesto.
The party said 18,500 of the 50,000 would come by encouraging existing nurses to stay in the profession and others to return, while 12,500 would also be recruited from abroad.
‘The current shortage of 43,000 registered nurses can only be filled by registered nurses - with degree-level education. It is unfair on staff and inappropriate for patients to try to plug this gap with other staff,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.
‘Today’s commitment to recruit and retain 50,000 more nursing staff above and beyond the existing students completing degrees is the right level of aspiration. However, we need more detail of how and from where these future professionals are going to be found. The emphasis must be firmly on growing the domestic workforce, as while we welcome nursing colleagues from around the world, an over-reliance on international recruitment is neither sustainable nor ethical in the long-term.’
However, concerns have been raised that the pledges do not go far enough to make up for the current shortfall in the nursing workforce.
‘The current double whammy of both tuition fees and living costs for a nursing degree are a barrier to many wanting to pursue a nursing career, so we need additional funding for both elements, not just living costs as the Conservative manifesto proposes. Forcing would-be nurses to pay tuition fees has demonstrably failed in the last two years. With this announcement, Boris Johnson has not brought back the bursary - he is pledging to return one element of the package and keep the costly tuition fees in place,’ added Dame Donna.
‘The number of future nurses being talked about here represent great ambition, but we will need to see some detail about how it can be achieved, and what this means for total investment, including to increase capacity for clinical learning placements in services.’
The party has also said that they will invest an additional £4.5 billion in primary and community health services as part of our £33.9 billion long-term plan for the NHS, which they say is the biggest increase in a generation. Additionally, they claim that this is the first time in the history of the NHS that real terms funding for primary and community health services is guaranteed to grow faster than the rising NHS budget overall.
‘We will put record funding into our GP surgeries, and to help everyone get the care they need, we will create 50 million extra appointments in GP surgeries each year, with the sort of easy online booking that we expect in other areas of our lives,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘Only a majority Conservative government will get Brexit done and focus on improving our NHS. A vote for anyone else will result in in a gridlocked hung Parliament, with a weak and chaotic coalition led by Jeremy Corbyn who will waste next year on the chaos of another two referendums.’