Nursing degree applications in England have fallen by 13,000 since 2016, according to UCAS figures.
The figures show number of people applying to study nursing in England has fallen sharply, despite a modest increase last year, since 2016, the last year students received the bursary. The RCN has warned that the NHS Long Term Plan won’t have a chance to succeed if the decline in student nurse applications isn’t reversed
‘These figures show the scale of the workforce challenge ahead of us, and failure to act now risks patient care for a generation. The Long Term Plan deserves to succeed, but it cannot do so without the nurses to deliver it,’ said RCN Acting Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair. ‘With applicant numbers showing no sign of recovering since the removal of student funding, health care services will ultimately have even fewer nurses to treat us in our hospitals, homes, schools and clinics.’
The figures show that the number of mature nursing student applications from people over 25 in England has seen an even greater decline, falling by 41% since the bursary was removed. According to the RCN, this will mean the specialist areas worst hit by the wider staffing crisis, such as learning disability and mental health nursing, will continue to struggle to recruit the nurses they need.
‘Today’s figures show we all need to work together to address the workforce crisis, not only through investment in nurse education in England but through a workforce strategy that reflects the demands of the population in each country,’ added Dame Donna. ‘This needs to be underpinned by legislation that guarantees the right number of nurses and nursing support staff to provide safe and effective care.’
The RCN’s is calling on the Government to invest at least £1bn per year in nursing higher education to help stop the decline in student nurse numbers and recruit the nursing staff needed to keep patients safe.
The organisation has presented costed proposals to the Government such as a maintenance grant for all nursing students, or a combination of grants and forgivable loans, as well as practical support for tuition fees.