Nursing leaders have welcomed a call by NHS England for universities to increase places for nurses, and give people interested in the profession more opportunities to sign up, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on International Nurses Day, Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive, said: ‘The biggest global health emergency in a century has put a huge spotlight on the crucial role of nurses not just in the NHS but also in social care’. He went on to comment that this crisis has seen ‘three generations of nurses’ coming together to combat the pandemic, and that it is clear that ‘many more nurses’ will be needed in future.
NHS England has made 8000 more clinical placements available to nurses, an increase of approximately a third on the current number, and is encouraging universities to increase their available places for nurses to match this. They are also asking for universities to introduce a third recruitment point in the year, to boost the number of students that can sign up to nursing courses.
Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, supported the move, commenting that ‘the best way to close the gap in nursing vacancies is through training and education’. But she stressed that nursing students needed better funding, calling for ‘full tuition fee support and maintenance grants’ to support nursing students with ‘the true cost of living’.
The QNI also supported the move, with the Chief Executive Dr Crystal Oldman, encouraging students to ‘explore the opportunities available in the community’ in locations such as residential and nursing homes, as the QNI ‘has consistently drawn attention to the need for more capacity in the community and social care’. The NHS Health Careers website has seen a 220% rise in people expressing an interest in becoming a nurse since the start of the pandemic, and Dr Oldman said it was ‘inspiring to hear of the number of people who are now looking at a nursing career’.