Nursing applicant numbers continue to fall and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have once again raised their concerns with ministers.
Since the NHS student bursary was removed 2 years ago the number of students applying for nursing training have consistently decreased – for terms beginning in September 2018, numbers have dropped by 12% making a total decline of 16,580 since March 2016.
‘Failing to recruit more nurses puts patients at risk, and with 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, we cannot sit back and watch applications fall year on year. It is clear now that removing the bursary has been a disaster. It is time ministers looked again at this policy, before patients suffer the consequences,’ said Janet Davies, RCN chief executive.
Additionally, there was a fall of 16% in mature students applying this year – making a 40% total decline in the past 2 years.
Mature students are more likely to need financial aid for childcare and support but without the bursary it is much harder for them to fund themselves through study.
‘On top of the serious decline in overall nursing applications, the 40% drop in mature students applying to study nursing is a particular concern,’ added Ms Davies.
‘These students represent a vital part of the nursing workforce, particularly in mental health and learning disabilities. It is these areas that benefit most from the life experience mature students bring, and where the shortage of nurses is most keenly felt.’
Independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) has warned that the current workforce shortages could persist to into 2027 without steps taken to improve the situation by the government.
Back in April the RCN called on the government for ‘urgent action’ when ministers had announced extra nursing training places but were unable to fill them.
The RCN also proposed that means-tested grants from a central funding pot from within the Department of Health and Social Care should be introduced.