Nursing recruitment has taken another blow as UCAS reports a drastic fall in the number of applications for 2017 nursing courses.
The new figures published on 13 July follow a warning from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that more nurses were leaving their register than were joining. England is currently short 40,000 nurses.
READ MORE: More nurses left the NHS than joined up in past year
UCAS has revealed that the total number of applicants for UK study has fallen by 12,610 (19%) since 2016 and the number of students from England applying has fallen by 23%. Year-on-year fluctuations have marked 1% differences up or down since 2014, indicating a dramatic shift in the appeal of nursing education.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has indicated that factors influencing prospective students’ decisions will include the vote to leave the European Union, the 1% cap on pay rises holding wages below inflation, and the introduction of tuition fees for student nurses.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘When the NHS is struggling without enough staff to provide safe care, extra effort is needed to bring more nursing staff through training. Despite government promises, the number of training places has not increased and student interest has fallen dramatically.
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‘The low pay in the profession means most students will never earn enough to repay the large loans. The move makes university seem out of reach for too many potential nurses at a time when they are needed most.
‘The nursing shortage will get even worse unless Ministers support people into training and scrap the cap on pay to keep experienced staff.’
While the number of EU students applying fell by 24%, there was a 38% rise in the number of non-EU internationals applying. However, this rise is marginal as it moved from 480 in 2016 to 670 this year, compared to larger swings in other groups.
READ MORE: Report predicts shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020
There was an above-average fall in the number of male applicants – dropping by 27% compared to 19% for women – and in particular older male applicants, including a fall of 41%in the number of applications from men in their thirties. The RCN expressed concerns that the profession’s gender divide will widen rather than narrow.
UCAS director of analysis and research Mark Corver said: ‘How these trends translate into students at university and colleges will become clear over the next six weeks as applicants get their results and secure their places, and new applicants apply direct to the clearing process.’