New nursing students are celebrating their A level results as their places at university are confirmed, but the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said there is ‘simply not enough’ of them.
UCAS announced that 21,490 applicants have been placed at nursing courses around the UK to start in September, which is a drop of 1,330 (6%) on last year. There are a further 18,830 currently in the ‘clearing’ process trying to find a place on a course which has fallen by 10,230 (35%) compared to 2016’s results.
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However, there are 7,370 students still waiting to see if they have an offer to study, which is an increase of 180 on the previous year. With the government promising to recruit an extra 10,000 healthcare professionals in the next five years, the RCN has called for transparency on how they intend to monitor this.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘Even with the possibility of further students being placed in the coming weeks, these low numbers are filling a leaking bucket. More people are leaving the profession than joining it.
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‘You don’t have to look far for the reasons why. The longstanding pay cap is driving people away from nursing, and understaffing heaps pressure on those who are left. Most worryingly, we don’t have enough nurses to guarantee patient safety.
‘The government must develop a coherent workforce strategy, tracking student’s progress into the workforce. New investment in nursing students must be part of this to ensure the future of nursing and the safety of patients.’
England currently has 40,000 nursing vacancies, due to ‘poor workforce planning’ according to Ms Davies. She has called for the government to publish the actual number of nursing students how start in the autumn by the end of 2017.
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UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant, said: ‘The overall numbers of students being accepted onto courses is lower, but it is a complicated picture. We are seeing a growing proportion of 18 year olds going into higher education, and greater numbers of students from our most deprived communities are securing places.
‘At the same time, we are seeing fewer older students taking places, and a fall in numbers from the EU. Higher education is still a hugely popular life choice, which has a transformational impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year.’