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Nursing degree application numbers ‘still at crisis point’

Student nursing applications in England are almost a third lower than three years ago, figures from UCAS show

Student nursing applications in England are almost a third lower than three years ago, figures from UCAS show.

The number of student nursing applicants in England has fallen by 29% since 2016, the year in which the nursing bursary was removed. A small increase of 4% on last year’s figures has failed to avert the crisis in student nursing recruitment.

According to the RCN, the numbers suggest that the decision to remove student nurse funding has failed in its aim to attract more people to the profession, leaving the health and care system in England short of the number of student nurses.

‘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,’ said RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair.

‘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 nurses and to support them when they are in full-time clinical placements.’

In Wales, the student nursing bursary has been extended until 2020, while it has remained in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Scotland was the only one of the four nations to see applications increase between 2016 and 2019, with a rise of 10%. The RCN is calling for a government guarantee to invest at least £1bn into nursing higher education.

‘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,’ added Dame Donna.

‘We cannot continue as we are. We know patient care is suffering and the staffing crisis simply has to be addressed.’