Latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show that the number of nursing applications in England has fallen by 18% in the last year.
The statistics revealed the number of people starting nursing courses in autumn this year has fallen by more than 6,000 compared to this time last year. RCN chief executive, Pat Cullen called these figures ‘damning’ for the Government.
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‘Not only are they losing a record number of experienced nurses from the NHS but they are compounding the problem by deterring the next generation.’
This comes after a high of more than 36,000 applications in 2021 at the height of the pandemic.
‘With tens of thousands of unfilled nurse jobs across the country, ministers should urgently consider a set of measures to turn this situation around,’ said Ms Cullen.
She suggested the Government should fund tuition fees and living costs for all nursing students.
A spokesperson for the QNI called these figures ‘disappointing’, they said: ‘The figures also show a fall in the number of people applying for teaching, compared to a 9% rise in those applying for computing degrees. By removing the bursary for students undertaking nursing degrees in 2015, the government effectively forced nursing qualifications to compete in an educational free market, and the longer-term effects of this policy can now be seen.’
However, Health Education England (HEE) has said it expected the number of applications to fall to reflect pre-pandemic levels.
‘The COVID-19 pandemic saw a big rise in the number of applicants to nursing and midwifery courses, partly as people were inspired to join the NHS thanks to the efforts of frontline staff,’ said a spokesperson for HEE.
Figures also show that the number of mature students, aged 35 and over applying to nursing dramatically fell by more than 2,000 applications since 2021.
UCAS polling on student attitudes showed that cost of living factors are making applicants re-evaluate their choice of subject.
‘In a climate of rising living costs and constrained pay for newly qualified nurses, it is not surprising that people are cautious about undertaking a nursing degree. This is personally sad for those who might have wished to become a nurse but felt unable to afford it, and of real concern to society as a whole,’ said a spokesperson for the QNI.