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Government may withdraw promise of 10,000 new student nurses, universities say

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The Department of Health wants the places by 2020 The Department of Health said it still promises to have the places by 2020

Fears have abounded that the government may be quietly stepping away from a promise to provide 10,000 new nursing degree places, according to a report in the Guardian.

Applications to join nursing degrees have slumped by 23% this year due to the abolition of bursaries and the introduction of tuition fees for students. To counteract this, the government pledged to provide funding for new places in a bid to relieve NHS pressure.

READ MORE: Midwives rendered 'ineffective' by staffing shortfalls

However, several universities – including nursing leaders Worcester University – said that the government has yet to provide any of the £15 million it would take to train 10,000 new nurses over five years. They expressed fear that this meant the government was going back on its promise without a major announcement.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) came out in opposition of any failure to fund university places for nursing students and the number of nurses joining the NHS falters both at home and abroad in the EU, due to the Brexit vote.

READ MORE: Mature students turning down nursing courses 'when the NHS needs them most'

RCN deputy director of nursing Steph Aiken said: ‘Our health service cannot function on empty promises. We already have 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone – who is going to fill those places? Where are the nurses of the future going to come from?

‘They are not coming from Europe – we’ve seen a 96% drop in the number of new registrants since the Brexit vote, and it appears now the government has little intention of training extra nurses at home.

READ MORE: Shortage of up to 40,000 nurses could follow Brexit by 2026

‘This cannot continue. We call on the government to make good on its promise, invest in nursing education and fund extra places – safe patient care depends on it.’

A Department of Health spokesperson stated that the government still intends to fulfil its 10,000-place target by 2020 and was working with the education system to deliver reforms.

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