MPs questioned health ministers on the shortage of nurses during health questions in Parliament on 13 October.
Drew Hendry, the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathsprey, asked Ben Gummer, the health minister for nursing, whether the Department of Health would continue discussions with the Home Office to overturn the decision to omit nurses from the occupation shortage list. Mr Gummer answered that Trusts had had three years to prepare for this moment. ‘There is a bigger issue at play here, which is that there are five applicants for every nursing place in the UK. That is the position for people wishing to train as a nurse. Our first responsibility is to ensure that we are getting as many people who want to be nurses in this country into a nurse training place,’ he said.
Mr Gummer stated that the number of nurse training places in 2015-16 was level with those in 2010-11 at just over 20,000 for both periods.
Caroline Flint, MP for Don Valley, however, referenced RCN figures that stated that ‘there is a critical shortage of nurses since the early 2000’s’. She said 37,645 students across the UK were turned away from nursing courses in 2014, and that the government needs to ‘drastically to scale up those places to reduce dependency on overseas nursing staff’.
Mr Gummer agreed this was an issue, but said ‘we have near-record numbers of nurses in training and a record number of nurses in practice, and we will continue to see growth over the next five years.’