The Spending Review confirmed that grants for student nurses will be replaced with student loans and caps on student nursing numbers will be abolished.
The current grant system means that there is a cap on student nurse numbers so over half of all applicants to nursing courses are turned away. Chancellor George Osborne said that this 'means that universities will be able to provide up to 10,000 additional nursing and other healthcare professsionals this Parliament.'
Nursing experts have largely welcomed the reform to nursing education but have raised concerns over whether this will deter young people from applying for nursing courses.
Janet Davies, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said that funding for the NHS has been desperately needed but 'student nurses shouldn’t be the ones having to pay for it'.
'Student nurses aren’t like other students. 50% of their time is spent in clinical practice working directly with patients and their families and they have a longer academic year. These proposals will saddle future generations of these student nurses with even more debt and financial pressures and unless nurses pay improves, many graduates will never be in a position to pay their loans back,' she said. 'The ring-fence to nursing student funding has been removed and a precious link between the NHS and its nurses is potentially at risk, making it harder to plan for the future workforce'
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said that employers will have to watch this change very closely. ' Employers will also hope that the introduction of any change will be done in a measured way and appropriately phased. However, there is a general recognition that we need a training system that is more flexible and one that can quickly respond to changes in demand.'
He went on to say that they are 'delighted to see a commitment to an additional 10,000 training places for nurses.'
The Council of Deans of Health, have initially backed the government's plan to increase student nurse numbers and have welcomed the announcement that there will be a full consultation on implementation.
'We have a workforce crisis in health and social care and we’re still educating fewer students than the NHS needs. We recognise that this has been a difficult decision for the government but are pleased that the government has found a way forward,' said Dame Jessica Corner, the chair of the Council of Deans of Health. 'Carefully implemented, this should allow universities in partnership with the NHS to increase the number of training places and also improve day to day financial support for students while they are studying.'
The Spending Review also confirmed that the NHS would receive £6billion over the next year which would 'fully fund the Five Year Forward View.' The NHS will also receive £120billion by 2020-21 which Mr Osborne called 'the largest invement in the health service.' The money will mostly be used to increase access to hospitals and GP services for seven day services.
The Chancellor also announced that there would be £600million extra funding for mental health services. This will be invested into ensuring that more people will ahve access to talking therapies every year by 2020. Transformative plans will be created, in conjunction with NHS England's Mental Health Taskforce, for perinatal mental health and crisis care.
The government will also invest £1billion into new technology for the NHS over the next five years. This will mean that by September 2018 80% of primary, urgent and emergency care will have digital access to key patient information.