Figures released yesterday reveal that nursing student numbers have fallen by 4% in England, which is a total decline of 11% since the bursary was removed in 2016.
With a current shortage of nearly 40,000 nurses in England, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has claimed this fall ‘jeopardises the future supply of nurses’ and puts patient care at risk.
‘Ministers’ decisions on student funding have left nursing in managed decline. Today’s figures should be the wake-up call the Government needs to properly address the staffing crisis that’s putting safe and effective patient care at risk,’ said Donna Kinnair, RCN director of nursing policy and practice.
‘Though we will see additional students placed through clearing in the coming weeks, today’s figures mean fewer nurses will enter our understaffed health care system in three years’ time, further jeopardising patient care. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.’
Across the UK, the total drop has been 8% in two years – 21,030 students are due to begin courses this September compared to 22,830 in 2016.
The fall in the number of mature students is even greater, with numbers in England dropping by 16% - this may have a significant effect on mental health and learning disability nursing which often attract older students and are experiencing shortages of their own.
When the nursing student bursary was removed in 2015, ministers increased the number of places but have since been unable to fill them.
‘The Government is nowhere near recruiting the 10,000 extra health care students we were promised by 2020,’ continued Ms Kinnair.
‘We need nurses with the education and skills to lead patient care. It’s time for ministers to take decisive action to address the nursing shortage and keep patients safe.’