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RCN calls for £1bn investment in student nurse training

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Many student nurses are unable to manage Many student nurses are unable to manage on their loans

The Royal College of Nursing is calling for a minimum £1bn investment into student nurse funding to halt decline in student numbers.

According to the RCN, since the living support bursary for nursing students was scrapped in 2016, applications to study nursing have fallen 33%, while the number of students accepted onto courses has dropped by 8%. Patient care is already threatened by extreme nursing shortages across the health and social care system, yet vacancies are projected to rise as high as 48,000 if no action is taken

‘Every day provides new disastrous examples of how understaffing is crippling our health and social care system,’ said Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. ‘Patient care is suffering, services are closing and overstretched nurses are working unpaid hours to keep health and care services afloat. Nursing students are inappropriately being used to plug gaps.’

Student nurses face unique challenges, the RCN says. On top of 2,300 hours of academic study, they are required to complete an extra 2,300 hours of clinical placements over their three year course. This is a thousand hours more time spent on their course than the average student.

Their student loans often do not cover the cost of travel, housing and food, and most are not able to have a part-time job on top of the workload. Many report suffering mental health problems during their course, and attrition rates for nursing courses average 21% compared to the 6.4% UK average. Financial pressures are leading more and more nursing students to apply for hardship loans, which rose 6% to £3.47mn in the 2017-18 academic year.

‘With student numbers plummeting, nurse vacancies are predicted to rise to 48,000 by 2023 – if this is allowed to happen, it is patients who will pay the highest price. But Government can stop this,’ added Professor Kinnair. ‘The disastrous decision to scrap the nursing student bursary has failed both students, the existing workforce and patients. The RCN has costed options to help attract and support nursing students, safeguard the future of the nursing profession, and secure the future of safe patient care in England.

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Bring back the nursing diploma and provide a good bursary. That's what helped me train to be a nurse. If there was no bursary I could not have afforded to train as a nurse
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