Student nurse funding must be addressed

With nursing degree applications falling, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has urged ministers to adequately address student funding.

The nursing body has reported that, two years on from the removal of the NHS student bursary, applications to nursing degree courses have plummeted by a third in England. The most recent statistics show that the numbers applying to begin training in September 2018 have dropped 12 per cent compared to the same time last year. This has resulted in a total decline of 16,580 since March 2016, the last year students received financial support through the bursary.

Furthermore, the decline in mature student numbers paints a worse picture, with a 16 per cent drop by the June application deadline compared to the same point last year, and a total decline of 40 per cent since June 2016.

The RCN echoes the findings of the independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), who warned that this workforce gap could persist until 2027 unless immediate action is taken, jeopardising patient care for much of the next decade.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive, said: “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.

“On top of the serious decline in overall nursing applications, the 40 per cent drop in mature students applying to study nursing is a particular concern. 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.”

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